West Nile mosquitoes in Greenwich

nc0712earth-001Mosquitoes trapped earlier this month in Mianus River Park in Greenwich have tested positive for the West Nile virus, town health officials have reported.

It is the first instance of West Nile-positive mosquitoes to be discovered in town this year. So far, the virus-carrying insects have been discovered in only one other Connecticut town this summer: Norwalk. There have been no cases reported as of yet of humans with a West Nile-related illness in the state.

Last year, there were 21 human cases of West Nile Virus in Connecticut, including two in Greenwich.

When bitten by an infected mosquito, most people are able to fight off the infection and experience either mild symptoms, such as headache and fever, or no symptoms at all. It is believed that approximately one in 100 persons bitten by an infected mosquito become ill. In a minority of infected persons, especially those older than 50, West Nile Virus can cause serious illness, including encephalitis and meningitis. Infection leads to death in 3 to 15 percent of persons with severe forms of the illness. The virus is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito, which becomes infected when it bites a bird carrying the virus.

West Nile virus is not spread by person-to-person contact or directly from birds to people. Although there is no specific treatment or cure, the symptoms and complications of the disease can often be treated. Most people who become ill recover.

General symptoms of a virus-related illness occur suddenly between 5 and 15 days following the bite of an infected mosquito and range from a slight fever, headache, rash, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, malaise and eye pain, to the rapid onset of severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, severe muscle weakness and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Steps to protect yourself from West Nile:

Avoid outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

If you plan to be outdoors for a long period of time, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and use mosquito repellent according to the manufacturer’s directions on the label (10 percent or less DEET for children and no more than 30 percent DEET for adults). Avoid application of repellents with DEET on infants and small children.

Cover up arms and legs of children playing outdoors and cover playpens or carriages with mosquito netting.

Don’t camp overnight near stagnant or standing water where mosquitoes are most active.

If you dispose of a dead animal, handle with gloves or bag the animal without touching it.

In addition, Greenwich residents are urged to continue to participate in the town’s mosquito control efforts by eliminating areas of standing water around their homes which includes the following guidelines:

Yard and home checklist

Get rid of old tires, tin cans, buckets, drums, bottles or any water holding containers.

Fill in or drain any low places (e.g., puddles, ruts) in yard.

Keep rain gutters, drains, ditches and culverts clean of weeds and trash so water will drain properly.

Cover trash containers to keep out rainwater.

Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets.

Empty plastic wading pools at least once a week and store indoors when not in use.

Make sure your backyard pool is properly chlorinated every day.

Fill in tree rot holes and hollow stumps that hold water with sand or concrete.

Change the water in birdbaths and plant pots or drip trays at least once each week.

Keep grass cut short and shrubbery well trimmed around the house so adult mosquitoes cannot hide there.

Eliminate collected water in boat or pool covers.

Ponds and stagnant water bodies that do not support fish, frogs or other amphibians that eat mosquito larvae may be treated with a biological control agent such as Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (BTI) and Bacillus sphaericus (BS). It is suggested that the Department of Health or Greenwich Conservation Commission be contacted when treatment is considered.

Tom Mellana