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Summer’s bounty includes return of West Nile virus

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Although the virus is capable of killing its victims, only 1 percent of those infected have died from it, but health officials say the low mortality rate of 15 deaths in the city since 1999 is no reason to ignore the warning signs. Health officials caution residents to be on the watch for concentrations of dead birds. Such concentrations are usually infected by the biggest spreaders of WNV, mosquitos"West Nile virus remains an unpredictable disease and we won't be able to tell how severe a problem it will be this year," said city Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden. "By taking steps now, New Yorkers can help to reduce mosquito populations in the city. Eliminating standing water and reporting dead birds to 311 has proven effective in controlling West Nile virus. We particularly ask residents to report dead cows and blue jays, which are important indicators of West Nile virus in our area."The first appearance of West Nile in the United States, and the Western Hemisphere, occurred locally in late August 1999 when three elderly women from Whitestone and Douglaston died after they were infected with the neuroinvasive disease.. Investigators originally thought the deaths were a result of St. Louis Encephalitis, which also attacks the central nervous system. That year 44 people were hospitalized and four died from the disease.The mosquito-borne virus has surfaced in the United States every year since its discovery in Queens in 1999, but health officials are slowly fighting back by educating residents on prevention The Health Department offers several tips on how to stay proactive in the fight against the disease:* Repair or replace all screens that have tears and holes.* Eliminate any standing water that collects on your property.* Dispose of containers that can collect standing water.* Make sure roof gutters drain properly and rooftops are free of standing water.* Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs. Keep them empty and covered if not in use; drain water that collects in pool covers.* Vases are prohibited from cemeteries during West Nile season.* Use a mosquito repellent that contains DEET when outdoors. Products containing oil of lemon are also effective, but should not be used on children younger than 3 years old.Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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