The New York City Health Department has detected the first of the season's mosquitoes with West Nile virus.
Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann is a Cornell University entomologist based on Long Island whose work focuses on integrated pest management. Although it's still early in the season to know the full extent of mosquito trends this year, she advises New Yorkers to take steps now to protect themselves from the risks of mosquito-borne illnesses.
"For the most part, mosquito-borne illness incidence in the U.S. is fairly low. Even in 2016 it wasn't very high, and that's including West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, Saint Louis encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis and other emerging diseases.
"There were 19 cases and one death from West Nile virus in New York City in 2016. So far, the only infected mosquito pools have been found in Staten Island. As the season progresses, we may see more locations that have mosquito samples with West Nile virus or another disease. It is good to be aware of those areas where positive mosquitoes have been found and protect oneself. However, not all counties in New York are sampling for mosquitoes and disease.
"People who venture outdoors into parks, backyards, or places where there could be mosquito breeding should wear mosquito repellents. This is more to avoid the annoyance of being bitten than for disease transmission, but it will protect you from the risks of mosquito-borne illness.
"We recommend that people who manage part or all of their property look for and dump standing water. A common breeding site is the gutters on a house, which might be clogged or crooked, and not draining properly. Gutters should be fixed to drain all standing water. Any container larger than a bottle cap can breed mosquitoes. People should look closely for dishes under plant pots, puddles in toys, tarps, buckets and other small containers and dump out the water.
"A dry backyard with less shade is better for keeping mosquito populations down. Mow tall grass and maintain a neat yard. However, if the yard has gardens or if the neighbors have mosquito breeding habitat that is not addressed, a better option is self-protection using mosquito repellents."