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Rosedale, Brookville hit with West Nile pesticide

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Areas of Rosedale and Brookville were sprayed with pesticide Monday night to curb the spread of adult mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus, days after city Health Department officials assured the community last week that spraying was not needed.

The reversal came when the Health Department found infected mosquitoes Friday during an intensified survey of the area, where an 84-year-old resident contracted the city’s first case of the virus this year, said City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton).

But at an emergency town hall meeting called by Sanders on Aug. 21, before the spraying was ordered, Dr. James Miller, the West Nile coordinator for the Health Department, told a crowd of more than 100 residents that no mosquitoes or birds from the area had tested positive for the virus at that time.

“I’m a little mad at the turn of events,” Sanders said Monday. “Their position was we only spray if there are dead birds or mosquitoes with the virus. Common sense says that if you have a person who only stays in Rosedale, the virus is here. We had them go and scour the neighborhood until they found West Nile.”

The Health Department sprayed the pesticide Anvil in Brookville Park and Springfield Park, and the area bounded by Merrick Boulevard to the north, Rockaway Boulevard to the south, Guy R. Brewer and Farmers boulevards to the west and the Nassau County line to the east.

The spraying continued overnight from 8:30 p.m. Monday to 2 a.m. Tuesday.

The West Nile virus is carried by birds and transmitted to human beings by mosquitoes. Only about 1 percent of people bitten by infected mosquitoes develop a serious infection, which could lead to encephalitis, or an inflammation of brain tissue.

So far this year, the virus has infected the Rosedale man in Queens and killed one man and infected two other people in Suffolk County. The nationwide death toll has reached 16 and more than 370 people have contracted the disease.

The Rosedale man remains in intensive care, but he was more aware of his surroundings last week, according to one of the his friends who has visited him. He first became ill on July 20 and was hospitalized on July 27, and his friend, who asked that her name not be used, said he had not left Rosedale in at least the past two months. She was driving with him when he first became ill, she said.

“It just came suddenly,” she said. “We came to a red light and he put his head on the steering wheel. He said, ‘I’ve got a terrible headache.’”

Before the city decided to spray in southeast Queens, residents at the meeting last week blasted representatives from the Health and Parks department for not doing enough to protect the area against the disease. Miller, who said area lakes were treated with larvacide in the spring to kill young mosquitoes and the area was monitored for the infected bugs or birds, admitted the case took the city by surprise.

“It’s very unusual to have something so isolated,” he said. “In general, we get warnings – infected mosquitoes, birds. That’s didn’t happen with this case in Queens.”

But residents continued to criticize the city for not using pesticides in the area immediately after the man was diagnosed.

“We’re being told that nothing is being done in Rosedale because it’s just one case,” a woman who is a friend of the ill man said at last week’s meeting. “One case is one case too many.”

Others, like Rosedale Jets Football Association President Jacques Leandre, took the opportunity to express fears about pesticides, even though the city had not planned to spray the area at the time of the meeting.

“We have very concerned parents worried about the effects on the respiratory system,” said Leandre, whose teams play in Brookville Park. “We’ve been practicing since May. It would be disheartening if we don’t have a place to play.”

The city encourages people to stay indoors while the pesticide is being sprayed in their area, especially those with asthma or respiratory problems, but after it has been completed residents should be fine, Miller said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:17 pm, October 10, 2011
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