West Nile virus has claimed a person's life. It's the first death from the mosquito-borne disease Onondaga County has ever seen and the first fatality in the state this year. Still, as our Iris St. Meran explains, health officials are not about to begin aerial spraying.
ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- The second human case of West Nile virus in Onondaga County has resulted in the death of an elderly person. The Health Department says it's the first time ever someone from the county has died from the illness.
"I wish we could make it go away, but we can't," said Onondaga County Health Commissioner Cynthia Morrow.
Morrow isn't releasing any information about the person out of respect for the family and to protect their privacy, but says he or she was hospitalized for several days. She says the person who had this year's first human case in the county is expected to make a complete recovery.
Most people, Morrow says, don't know they have it. West Nile is discovered through a blood test.
Morrow said, "Eighty percent of people with West Nile don't even know they were exposed to it. Twenty percent have symptoms. The vast majority of those people with symptoms have flu-like symptoms: headache, body ache, maybe fever."
Mosquitoes need water to breed. This summer was dry and mosquito numbers are low.
This past week they had 600 mosquitoes in all of their traps, in previous years around this time they would have had up to 20,000.
Although there's been widespread evidence of the virus in this county and across the country, Morrow says spraying would not be effective here.
"The numbers are way too low to justify spraying. It doesn't make sense,” Morrow added. “We wouldn't even know if we would get any mosquitoes at a significant level because the numbers are so low. And there's so few of them, they might be under leaves."
Morrow stresses personal responsibility. If you have to be outside use mosquito repellant containing DEET or oil of lemon or eucalyptus. Make sure skin is covered with long sleeves, pants, shoes, and socks and remove standing water.
The Onondaga County Health Department has other helpful tips to protect yourself from insect bites and mosquito borne illnesses. Visit www.ongov.net/health.