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Health Department urges residents to protect themselves from mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses (PSA)

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Last year, there were 21 cases of West Nile virus in the city,  and two deaths were attributed to the disease. There were 1,083 reports of Lyme disease among New Yorkers. The following is from NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene:

As summer nears, the Health Department reminds New Yorkers to protect themselves from mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses. Last year, there were 21 cases of West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne illness, in the city, and two deaths were attributed to the disease. Reports of tick-borne illnesses have been rising over the past six years. Last year, there were 1,083 reports of Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness, among New Yorkers – an increase of 137 cases from 2016. The City has an extensive surveillance system to monitor mosquito and tick populations. To learn more about mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses, go here.  The City released an advisory about ticks, go here.

“The summer is a time that New Yorkers explore the outdoors, including the City’s great parks and beaches,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The Health Department encourages residents to enjoy all of the outdoor facilities and activities the City has to offer and to take necessary precautions to protect themselves from mosquito- and tick-borne diseases.”

“In recent years, we’ve seen the numbers of cases of Lyme disease on Staten Island trending in the wrong direction,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo. “Taking the proper measures against ticks and mosquitos is key to preventing serious diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile virus. Talking to folks who are enduring Lyme disease is often a stark reminder about the heartache that you can avoid by taking a moment to think about these precautions. We want all new Yorkers to enjoy the wonderful outdoors our city and state offers, but to do so smartly.”

“I join the Department of Health in encouraging New Yorkers to protect themselves from mosquito and tick-borne illnesses during these summer months while they enjoy the outdoors,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “Taking a few small steps, like placing screens on windows and calling 311 to report puddles of water, can help keep you safe and healthy.”

“By surveying and targeting mosquitoes and ticks that can transmit diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease, City health authorities are moving swiftly and effectively to combat these potential threat to our health,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee. All New Yorkers should take steps to minimize their risks of contracting mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses.”

West Nile virus is a disease spread by mosquitos found in New York City. In individuals over 50 or with a weakened immune system, West Nile virus can cause severe illness, including meningitis and encephalitis. Others may experience milder symptoms, which include headache, fever, fatigue, and rash. New Yorkers who travel are also at risk for other diseases spread by mosquitos such as Zikachikungunya and dengueThere have been no local transmissions of these diseases in New York City.

The Health Department uses an integrated vector management program to control West Nile virus, which was first detected in New York City 19 years ago. Starting in early June, and continuing throughout the summer, the Department uses data from mosquito surveillance to direct control efforts. Larvicide is used to kill mosquito larvae before they grow into adults and is applied by helicopter, truck or backpacks. When needed, trucks are used to apply pesticides to targeted areas in order to kill adult mosquitoes and prevent them from spreading disease.

To further reduce mosquito populations, the Health Department also removes standing water and applies larvicide to sites that cannot be emptied or drained; investigates standing water complaints filed through 311; and educates the public about mosquito-borne illnesses through outreach.

Recommendations to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses

  • Reduce your risk at home.
    • Remove standing water that collects on your property, and remind or help neighbors to do the same. Report standing water by calling 311 or visiting nyc.gov/health/wnv.
    • Make sure your windows have screens, and repair or replace screens that have holes.
  • Repel, don’t attract, mosquitos.
    • Use an approved insect repellent containing picaridin, DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus (not for children under 3), or products that contain the active ingredient IR3535 or 2-undecanone.
  • Cover up.
    • Wear protective clothing outside, such as long pants and long-sleeved shirts, especially during the evening, night and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active and looking for a meal.

Most New Yorkers are infected with Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases including anaplasmosis and babesiosis, after traveling to surrounding areas, including Long Island and upstate New York, however a growing number of people are becoming infected on Staten Island.

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in New York City. Early symptoms of Lyme disease include a skin rash that expands over several days, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes. If left untreated, the infection may spread to the joints, heart or the nervous system. The total number of cases has increased citywide. Last year, there were 383 reports of Lyme disease in Manhattan, 381 in Brooklyn, 149 in Queens, 123 in Staten Island and 47 in the Bronx. In 2016, there were 322 in Manhattan, 322 in Brooklyn, 128 in Queens, 123 in Staten Island and 51 in the Bronx.

This year, the agency will conduct tick surveillance in 17 sites: 14 in Staten Island, two in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn. Another 15 sites will be surveyed during high tick activity season from May to July: two in Manhattan, four in the Bronx, seven in Queens and two in Brooklyn. Surveillance data will be used to monitor tick densities and their geographic distribution.

Ticks collected during surveillance will be tested to determine the prevalence of tick-borne diseases. In 2016, tick surveillance identified blacklegged ticks from Staten Island and focal areas of the Bronx with Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, and a single tick with Powassan virus collected in the Bronx. No human cases of Powassan virus disease have been reported among New York City residents, however approximately one-to-three cases are reported annually in New York State.

The Health Department worked closely with NYC Parks and the Staten Island Borough President’s Office on the Deer Task Force as part of the integrated deer impact management plan to conduct outreach and education efforts at social gatherings, public meetings and health fairs about tick-borne illnesses. As a part of this effort, tick surveillance was expanded in 2017 and a media campaign was launched to increase awareness about disease carrying ticks.

Recommendations to prevent tick bites and tick-borne illnesses

  • Reduce your risk at home – create a tick safe zone.
    • Remove leaf litter.
    • Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
    • Mow the lawn frequently.
    • Speak to your veterinarian about tick prevention products for your pet dogs and cats.
  • Repel, don’t attract, ticks.
    • Use an approved insect repellent containing picaridin, DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus (not for children under 3), or products that contain the active ingredient IR3535, ara-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.
    • Stay in the center of cleared paths and hiking trails when walking in heavily-wooded areas.
    • Treat clothing and shoes with 0.5 percent permethrin. Permethrin is a contact insecticide that kills ticks or other insects.
    • Wear light-colored clothing to allow you to better see ticks that crawl on your clothing.
  • After being outdoors in wooded, brushy or tall, grassy areas.
    • Check for ticks on your body and clothing and remove any ticks you find on yourself, your child or your pet.
    • Young ticks are very small (about the size of a poppy seed), so seek help to inspect not easily reachable areas. Be sure to look carefully in areas of the body where hair is present, since it may make it difficult to see the ticks. Adult ticks are about the size of an apple seed.
    • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors, preferably within two hours.
    • If you get a rash or a fever, let the doctor know if you may have been exposed to ticks, even if you don’t remember having a tick bite.

Ticks on people or pets should be removed promptly. Refer to the tick removal video found here:

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