Mosquito Collected in East Hampton Tests Positive for West Nile Virus

A mosquito collected in East Hampton on July 26 has tested positive for West Nile virus, Suffolk County health officials announced on Friday.

The mosquito in East Hampton was one of 22 collected by the county that day to test positive for West Nile. While no humans have tested positive for West Nile virus in the county this year, 44 cases have been confirmed in mosquitoes, as well as in three birds. This year to date, no horses have tested positive.

This is only the third time since 2010 that a mosquito collected in East Hampton has tested positive for West Nile. The first was collected in August 2010; the second in August 2014.

News of the positive test in East Hampton comes as the town trustees, in conjunction with the vector control division of the county's Public Works Department and Legislator Bridget Fleming, enact a trial program that they hope will allow reduced and more targeted application of methoprene, a mosquito larvicide.

The county routinely applies methoprene via helicopter over marshlands in the Town of East Hampton including Accabonac Harbor, Napeague, and Beach Hampton, and at other sites across Suffolk. This week, the county was set to spray
At Accabonac Harbor and Napeague on Tuesday, weather permitting, and at Jagger Lane in eastern Southampton Town.

Methoprene's use is controversial, with vector control officials insisting it is safe but many others believing it harms nontarget species, including crustaceans. Town officials have often called for its elimination.

Under the trial program, interns from Stony Brook University and officials from the town's Natural Resources Department are sampling water from Accabonac Harbor to quantify mosquito larvae. Sample sites are recorded using global positioning system devices. Areas are to be treated based on analysis of the samples.

Sampling was taking place on Monday, with Tyler Armstrong of the trustees accompanying those conducting the work, according to Bill Taylor, a deputy clerk of the trustees. Mr. Taylor said on Monday that vector control officials are dropping a granulated form of methoprene via helicopter, rather than the typical aerial spraying, to more precisely target areas of concern and control the larvicide's drift. "We're taking incremental, small steps with vector control," he said, "trying to find alternative methods of taking care of it without mass spraying. . . . But it's still poison. . . . It still kills baby fish."

"The idea is that more testing, on a regular basis, will give them more accurate information as to what's going on," Francis Bock, the trustees' presiding officer, told his colleagues in June. Should conditions allow it, he said, methoprene application can be more accurately applied, "and they may be able to use a lower dose of the methoprene in the process." The Nature Conservancy, which owns land around Accabonac Harbor, has allowed the program on its property, Mr. Bock said.

In addition to the mosquito confirmed to carry West Nile virus in East Hampton, the other mosquitoes reported on Friday were collected in Oakdale, Stony Brook, Port Jefferson Station, Selden, Holtsville, Ridge, Lindenhurst, Copiague, West Babylon, Huntington, Greenlawn, Huntington Station, Nesconset, Commack, Smithtown, and Bay Shore.

"The confirmation of West Nile virus in mosquito samples or birds indicates the presence of West Nile virus in the area," James Tomarken, the county health commissioner, said in a statement issued on Friday. "While there is no cause for alarm, we advise residents to cooperate with us in our efforts to reduce the exposure to the virus, which can be debilitating to humans."

According to Dr. Tomarken, most people infected with West Nile virus will experience mild or no symptoms, but some can develop severe symptoms including high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness, and paralysis. Symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.

Individuals, especially those 50 years of age or older, or those with compromised immune systems, have been urged to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Residents have been advised to minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn; wear shoes and socks, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts when mosquitoes are active; use mosquito repellent, following label directions carefully; make sure all windows and doors have screens, and that all screens are in good repair, and keep mosquitoes from laying eggs inside and outside of residences.

Containers that hold water, such as vases, pet water bowls, flowerpot saucers, discarded tires, buckets, pool covers, birdbaths, trash cans, and rain barrels should be emptied and scrubbed, turned over, covered, or thrown out at least once a week.

The county offers an informational brochure called "Get the Buzz on Mosquito Protection," available in English and Spanish at suffolkcountyny.gov.

Dead birds may indicate the presence of West Nile virus in the area. The public has been asked to report dead birds by calling the county's public health information line at 631-787-2200, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Residents have been encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question.

Those wishing to report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water have been asked to call the Department of Public Works' Vector Control division at 631-852-4270.

West Nile virus, first detected in birds and mosquito samples in Suffolk County in 1999 and again each year thereafter, is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.