Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a multi-faceted mosquito plan to help increase awareness and protect New Yorkers against mosquito-borne disease this summer. In addition, the Governor has directed the Department of Health to issue a seasonal mosquito advisory to all local health departments and health care providers outlining the plan.
“With the beginning of summer upon us, it is important to keep in mind the health risks associated with mosquito-borne diseases,” Governor Cuomo said. “This advisory serves to help New Yorkers stay informed and take the necessary precautions to keep their families safe when spending time outdoors this summer.”
Components of the state health department’s mosquito plan include:
Mosquito Education and Outreach
At the Governor’s direction, the Department of Health has issued a seasonal mosquito-borne disease health advisory to all local health departments and health care providers, on symptoms and diagnostic procedures for West Nile virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus and Zika virus. This information will also be available on the Department’s website and social media platforms to provide further public education emphasizing personal protection.
In order to protect pets and animals that may also contract or carry these diseases, DOH also provides information to veterinary medical practitioners on the appropriate procedures for diagnosing mosquito-borne illness.
In addition, the Department provides educational materials about mosquito-borne diseases at The Great New York State Fair. This year, the Department will also provide mosquito repellent wipes and larvicide at The Fair, which runs from August 22 – September 3.
Certain mosquito-borne diseases, like Yellow Fever and Zika virus, pose special risks to travelers. Individuals who are traveling this summer are encouraged to learn about destination-specific health risks and recommendations by visiting CDC Travelers’ Health website.
Mosquito Surveillance and Assistance
Mosquito surveillance: Working with various county health departments, starting in early summer, the Department coordinates the weekly collection and identification of mosquitoes from traps located in key habitats for mosquitoes. Staff use the data to identify areas of disease risk and track trends in infections by geographic area and guide local decision-making and technical assistance regarding local mosquito control measures.
Human surveillance: Each summer, the Department sends alerts to increase healthcare providers’ awareness of the symptoms of WNV, EEE and Zika. When providers suspect a mosquito-borne illness, the Department in cooperation with county health departments investigates and samples can be tested at the DOH Wadsworth Laboratory.
Animal surveillance: The Department and counties maintain veterinary surveillance for encephalitis in horses. Horses are very sensitive to EEE and infection is often fatal. Suspect cases are tested at the Department’s Wadsworth Laboratory to confirm infection. Vaccines are available to help protect horses from EEE and WNV. Horse owners should also minimize exposure to infected mosquitoes by frequently changing water in troughs and buckets and eliminating other standing water sources.
Mosquito Prevention Tips
Women who are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant and think they may have been exposed to the Zika virus, or whose partner recently traveled to an area with Zika virus, should discuss it with their OB-GYN or primary care provider. Mosquitoes that may be able to transmit Zika virus are currently limited to Long Island, New York City, and the counties just north of New York City.
The Department recommends the following precautions to reduce risk of infection from mosquito-borne diseases:
Cover your skin as completely as possible while outside when mosquitoes are present and active. Wear long sleeves, pants and socks.
Use insect repellent recommended for use on exposed skin.
Always follow label directions before using any kind of repellent.
Reduce or eliminate all standing water in yards.
Remove discarded tires and turn over containers in which water can collect.
Make sure all windows and doors have screens and are free of rips, tears or holes.
Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs.
Drain water from pool covers.
Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.
Larvicide can be used according to label directions on areas where water collects and cannot be removed or drained.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “The state’s comprehensive mosquito plan is another example of Governor Cuomo’s commitment to protecting New Yorkers’ health by increasing awareness of mosquito-borne disease and encouraging them to take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure.”
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “As we encourage New Yorkers and visitors to get outside and take advantage of our State’s natural resources, today’s actions are another example of Governor Cuomo’s commitment to ensuring everyone can safely enjoy the great outdoors. From High Peaks hikers to backyard explorers, everyone should take precautions when it comes to mosquitoes. We encourage residents and visitors to follow safety recommendations before heading outside.”
Insect repellants containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 years of age and products containing DEET should not be used on infants under 2 months of age.
For children older than 2 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends products containing 10 percent to 30 percent DEET.
Ten percent DEET provides protection for about 2 hours, and 30 percent DEET protects for about 5 hours.
People may also consider purchasing clothing that has been pre-treated with the insecticide permethrin, which helps repel mosquitoes.
New York City and some counties have initiated mosquito control programs, including larviciding to treat standing water and aerial spraying, to reduce public health risks. Residents should contact their local health department to obtain the latest information on mosquito control efforts in their community.
To support these local efforts, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will provide pesticide applicator certification exams to ensure that county staff are certified to apply pesticides, if necessary.
Information about exams, including dates and locations, can be found on the New York State Pesticide Administration Database.
DEC’s mosquito control webpage includes a list of registered pesticide products and information about mosquito control services.