Is Nassau County in for a West Nile Virus-filled summer in 2013? The question isn’t that easy to answer.
"Every year is very different,” said Mary Ellen Laurain, Director of the Office of Communications and Health Education for the Nassau County Department of Health (NCDOH).
According to the NCDOH, there were 14 human cases of West Nile in Nassau County during 2012, with one death and 81 positive mosquito samples. In 2011, there were 16 human cases, one death and 29 positive samples.
However, in 2010, there were 57 human cases in Nassau, with three deaths and 145 positive samples.
Laurain said the county has the same number of traps every year, so the spike in 2010 hasn't been completely figured out.
"The science is relatively new on it,” she said. “The disease has only been here since 1999, so that's all being examined. But every year the weather patterns vary, so it's not predictable."
Luckily, estimations show that just 20 percent of people who become infected will develop West Nile fever and have mild symptoms, including fever, headache and body aches, and occasionally a skin rash and swollen lymph glands.
According to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), the symptoms of severe infection (West Nile encephalitis or meningitis) can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma. It is estimated that one in 150 persons infected with the WNV will develop the more severe form of the disease.
Symptoms tend to occur from 3 to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, according to the NYSDOH. There is no specific treatment for viral infections, other than to treat the symptoms and provide supportive care.
There are also people who are more likely to see symptoms from the disease. Laurain said that while all people are at risk, those over the age of 50 are at a higher risk than younger residents of Nassau County.
She added that peak mosquito hours are at dusk and dawn, but there is something residents can do to limit the mosquito population in Nassau County.
"The most important thing is to eliminate any standing water because mosquitoes need water to breed,” she said.
Particularly after heavy rains residents should dump water, check their flower pots and check they're recycling bins. Laurain said it only takes a few days for mosquitoes to breed.
According to Laurain, the Nassau County Department of Public Works has already started larviciding, which is a process that kills the egg in the larva stage before it becomes a mosquito.