Second West Nile victim infected in Queens

By Kathianne Boniello

A Queens man has become the second borough resident infected by the West Nile virus so far this year, the city Health Department announced last week.

The man, 51, whose name and community were not released, was diagnosed with encephalitis on Sept. 7 and hospitalized Sept. 9, two days before the destruction of the World Trade Center, the city said. The West Nile virus can result in encephalitis, which can produce symptoms such as fever, headache, confusion and achy joints.

Earlier this month the Health Department said a Bayside man, 75, had begun showing symptoms of the West Nile virus on Aug. 14 and was later hospitalized. The Baysider was the second city resident to be infected in 2001 after a Staten Islander was infected earlier in the year.

The West Nile virus was first identified in the Western Hemisphere in August 1999, when infected residents from the Powell’s Cove section in Queens were discovered by an alert doctor at Flushing Hospital.

The virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes who contract it from infected birds. In 1999, four people died of West Nile in Queens and dozens throughout the city were sickened.

The city sparked controversy in 1999 when it chose the insecticide malathion to reduce the mosquito population and combat the spread of the virus. Prior to 1999 the city’s insecticide campaign had been negligible.

In 2000 and 2001 the Health Department focused on prevention as a way to fight West Nile and began targeting larvae to curb the mosquito population.

The infection of the Bayside man prompted the city Health Department to spray pesticides in Auburndale and Bayside in early September. The virus was identified in birds and mosquitoes in Bellerose in July, but at the time the city Health Department decided to engage in a larviciding campaign to kill off infant mosquitoes.

The latest Queens victim was the fifth person in the city to become infected by West Nile in the last few months but no addition pesticide spraying in the borough has been announced by the Health Department. The five West Nile victims in the city so far this year were from Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn.

The Bayside man was hospitalized a few days after his infection was first identified.

West Nile virus produces flu-like symptoms including achiness, fever, sore joints, muscle pain and headaches. Young children and the elderly are especially susceptible to the illness.

So far in 2001, the Health Department said there have been 24 infected birds found in the borough along with 15 infected mosquito pools.

To get information about West Nile or report a dead bird, call the Health Department at 1-888-799-8789.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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