West Nile virus claims first N.Y. victim of the year

Sep 12, 2018

A Monroe County resident has died from West Nile virus.

It’s the only death from the disease in New York state so far this year, according to the most recent data from the state health department.

Monroe County health officials are urging residents to drain any standing water that could be a breeding ground for mosquitos after the county became home to New York state's first death from West Nile virus this season.
Credit Public Library of Science

Only two other counties in the state outside of New York City, where data is tracked separately, have documented a case of the virus this year. Both of those are downstate counties, with one reported case each.

At this time in last year’s season, no one in Monroe County had been diagnosed with West Nile virus. This season, there have been two.

But county health department spokesman John Ricci said residents should not read too much into these figures. “These numbers are not statistically significant,” Ricci said. “One should not conclude that, because we’ve had two cases, one of which died, the mortality rate is 50 percent.”

Only about 1 percent of mosquitos in the Monroe County area carry West Nile virus, Ricci said, and only about 1 percent of people who contract the virus will develop serious symptoms.

Citing privacy concerns, the county is not releasing any information about the person who died from the disease, other than to say it was an “older adult county resident.” Ricci said people over 50 years old are most vulnerable to the disease. “That’s not to say a child cannot contract West Nile,” he said, “but it’s usually the older people who contract West Nile that are at the greatest risk of having serious complications from the illness.”

Ricci said there’s nothing particular about Monroe County that makes it more or less susceptible to the virus.

The county urged residents to continue enjoying the end of summer outdoors, but to cover exposed skin, apply insect repellant that contains DEET, and drain any standing water on their property.

Ricci said the mosquitos carrying the virus are most active this time of year, and they’re likely to stick around until the first frost.