NEW YORK CITY: helicopters spray mosquitoes carrying fatal disease

Helicopters are spraying pesticides over New York City in an attempt to stop mosquitoes from spreading the potentially fatal disease St. Louis encephalitis, which has already claimed three lives.

To date there have been three fatalities, with nine confirmed cases and some 60 under investigation, reports New York Times.

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said “To eradicate likely mosquito breeding grounds, the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management (MOEM) is working with the City and State Health Departments, and with help from Nassau and Suffolk Counties, to carry out extensive spraying by helicopters and by ground level workers in the Whitestone, Flushing, and Auburndale areas of Queens, and in the Soundview, Classon Point, Harding Park, and Ferry Point sections of the Bronx. “

Health Commissioner Neal L. Cohen, M.D. said, “While we are taking extensive precautionary measures to reduce the mosquito population, the risk of contracting St. Louis Encephalitis remains minimal. Prior outbreak investigations in other parts of the country have shown that only one in a thousand mosquitoes are infected with the virus. Additionally, most people who are bitten by infected mosquitoes do not get sick or recover fully after a mild illness. We continue to advise the elderly and the very young who are most susceptible to illness to take steps to protect themselves from mosquitoes.”

The Health Department continues to recommend the following precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to mosquitoes:

  • “Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks when outdoors and use mosquito repellant on exposed skin. Use insect repellants with no more than 30% DEET, but use sparingly and with care. (Products containing 15% or less DEET are recommended for children but products containing DEET should not be used on infants. Carefully read and follow directions on the container and wash treated skin when mosquito exposure has ended).
  • “Avoid unnecessary outdoor activity from dusk until dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • “Remove water from cans and jars, discarded tires, clogged roof gutters, yard decorations or any other outdoor containers since mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water.
  • “Ensure that your home has tight-fitting screens over windows and doors to keep mosquitoes from entering apartments and homes.”

Additionally, to reduce exposure to malathion, the Health Department advises residents in areas where spraying is taking place to:

  • Close all doors and windows and keep them closed for two or three hours after spraying is completed.
  • Turn fans and air conditioners off, or set the exhaust so air exits from the house.
  • Remove children’s toys from outdoor areas and clothes from outdoor clothes lines. If toys are left outside, wash thoroughly with soap and water before using again.

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