By Phil Corso
It has been two years since the city Department of Health put Bellerose on its list of neighborhoods to spray for the West Nile virus, and residents of the community have been left waiting for relief.
AJ Sonnick said he and his neighbors have been feeling the bite with summer in full bloom and it was time for the city to reconsider where it sprayed for the sometimes fatal virus, which made its first appearance in the United States in College Point back in 1999.
“On the ground, most nights we can’t sit in our yard at all,” he said. “I have family that lives up the block from me and they are saying the same thing. It’s a shame how we can’t sit outside anymore to enjoy the weather.”
The city sprayed larvicide over three days last month above non-residential marshlands in parts of Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Linden Hill, College Point, Edgemere and Somerville.
Bellerose was not on the list, but a spokeswoman for the city DOH said the community was still on the radar.
“The Health Department is regularly monitoring Bellerose for West Nile virus and has treated catch basins in the area twice this season,” the spokeswoman said. “A decision to spray, in addition to larviciding, for adult mosquitoes is based on field surveillance and West Nile virus testing results.”
When it comes to spraying from the sky, the department said helicopters fly overhead and drop larvicide to kill mosquitoes early on in the larva phase before they can spread and potentially infect others with the virus. Spraying was only done in areas where a high risk of disease transmission is found and is used only as a last resort, the DOH said.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said his office has been buzzing with mosquito complaints, particularly from Bellerose, but he said the issue affected the entire borough.
“In my opinion, the city doesn’t do enough,” Avella said. “We should be doing an aggressive preventative effort and educational effort to eliminate standing water. We should be cleaning on a much more comprehensive basis.”
The senator said an abundance of abandoned construction sites throughout his northeast Queens district were adding to the problem as virtual mosquito magnets. Another indication residents could look for to see if West Nile is prevalent was dead birds, Avella said.
“Originally, if you reported a dead bird, the city would come out and analyze it,” Avella said. “Now, they only come out if there is a multitude of dead birds. The city has gotten very complacent about this, and meanwhile people die every year.”
The DOG reported
West Nile was found in 41 people and killed six throughout New York City in 2012, the Health Department said. The disease can be transmitted through mosquito bites, with the most vulnerable victims including the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, the department said.
And as the summer burns on over the heads of Bellerose residents, Sonnick said he hopes to see his community back on the Department of Health’s checklist.
“I feel like our town has been forgotten about because we’re on the Queens-Nassau border,” he said. “I understand the mosquitoes won’t go away 100 percent. I just don’t understand why we haven’t been sprayed and why the mosquito problem is so bad.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.