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West Nile discovered in Queens

Large sections of northern and western Queens were sprayed with pesticides earlier this week after the city Health Department announced the discovery of dead birds infected with the West Nile virus in Douglaston, Richmond Hill and Woodhaven.

Last week the Health Department revealed that two dead birds on Staten Island had tested positive for the virus, which killed four people in Queens during an outbreak last year.

By Friday the agency said three more birds had been found in the city, including one in Douglaston, and by Monday the dead bird count was up to seven with two more found in Queens.

The Health Department also announced the virus had been found in mosquito pools in Central Park and Staten Island. As of press time no mosquito pools in Queens had been found to have the West Nile virus, and there had been no human cases of the disease this year.

The Health Department sprang into action to control the spread of mosquitoes that may be carrying the virus by ground spraying the pesticide Anvil Monday and Tuesday nights in dozens of Queens communities and over most of Staten Island.

City Health Commissioner Dr. Neal Cohen said "these pesticide applications will reduce the number of mosquitoes and will reduce the potential for human illness."

Queen Borough President Claire Shulman said "the mission of the city is to protect the people from getting this disease. Residents should feel secure with the efforts New York City is making to combat (the virus)."

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the city would target its spraying efforts to within a two-mile radius of where infected birds or mosquito pools were found. He also said the city would attempt to give 48 hours or more notice about the spraying in residential areas.

In August 1999 human cases of West Nile virus, which was originally thought to be St. Louis Encephalitis, were identified at Flushing Hospital. College Point was determined as the place of origin for the outbreak, which was the first appearance of the exotic, mosquito-borne disease in the Western Hemisphere.

West Nile virus infects birds, which are then bitten by certain types of mosquitoes that transfer the disease to humans. Those most susceptible include the elderly, young children, and those with compromised immune systems.

For more information about the city Health Department's efforts to combat the West Nile virus, call 1-877-968-4692 or go to the agency's web site at www.nyc.gov/health.

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