Four people in New York City have contracted West Nile virus so far this year — and two of them are still in the hospital, the city’s Health Department said Thursday.
Two of the reported West Nile cases were in Queens, one was found on Staten Island and one was found in Brooklyn, according to the department; two of the people who contracted the virus have since been released from the hospital.
Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot on Thursday warned residents to take steps to avoid mosquito bites.
“Actions such as wearing mosquito repellent, covering arms and legs when outdoors, discarding standing water and installing window screens can reduce the human transmission of West Nile virus and save lives,” she said in a statement. New Yorkers can report standing water to the city by calling 311.
New York City saw its first cases of West Nile virus two decades ago, and human cases “occur each year” — primarily between late July and October — according to the department.
A total of 422 residents have been diagnosed with the virus since 1999 — 46 of whom have died as a result of the infection, the department said.
The number of mosquito pools that have tested positive for the virus so far this year reached 319 — a 66% drop from last year. The department has already carried out “seven adulticiding spray operations and three aerial larvicide treatments” this year as part of an aggressive anti-mosquito campaign, it noted.
While “milder symptoms” of the virus include headaches, fevers, fatigue and rashes, it can also have more serious consequences.
“In people over 50 or with a weakened immune system, West Nile virus can cause severe illness, including meningitis and encephalitis, sometimes resulting in permanent or long-term complications such as muscle weakness, fatigue, confusion and depression,” the health department said.