News Feature | July 20, 2015

West Nile Virus Threatens New York City Water Basins

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Health authorities recently found West Nile virus in New York City mosquitos, and they are treating water basins to prevent it from spreading to people.

“Infected mosquitoes were collected from the Glen Oaks neighborhood in Queens and along New Dorp Beach on Staten Island, the health department says. The health department said it is trapping the bugs and treating water-catching basins in the affected areas,” NBC New York reported.

The city “will continue its efforts to kill mosquito larvae by applying larvicide in the city's catch basins, marshland and areas with standing water,” Staten Island Live reported.

No cases in humans have been reported yet this year. The movement of the virus depends in large part on precipitation patterns, because the virus is carried by mosquitoes, which require hydration.

“Some experts theorize that a wet winter followed by drought creates ideal conditions for the culex mosquitoes that spread the virus. They lay their eggs in dirty, nutrient-filled pools like those left when rivers dry up, and they can survive winters with the virus by hiding in tunnels or sewers. Entomologists from HomeTeam Pest Defense in Dallas have, for example, advised residents not to overwater their lawns, which can create pools of standing water,” The New York Times reported in 2012.

The year before, the city cracked down on bird baths and swimming pools as a way to fight the virus. Around 700 New Yorkers received citations for failing to properly treat water in their yard.

“Most of those issued in 2011 were for poorly maintained swimming pools and standing water at construction sites. Even an ordinary puddle can lead to a violation. So can a birdbath, as four surprised New Yorkers found out,” The New York Times reported.

The city’s health department provides tips on safely using insect repellant in the vicinity of water bodies.

For similar stories, visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.