By Madina Toure
Elected officials, homeowners and community leaders in College Point are calling on the city to take extra measures against mosquito-borne viruses.
Earlier this spring, homeowners living within several blocks of the College Point Water Treatment Plant reported excessive levels of mosquitoes and contacted Avella’s office.
In 1999, College Point was the site of the first known case of the West Nile Virus in the United States. For that reason, Avella says the borough should be given priority attention in efforts against the Zika virus. The new pathogen has started spreading to new regions due to mosquito transmissions but has not yet been found in New York.
At a news conference May 19 at the College Point Treatment Water Plant also attended by marine and environmental biologist James Cervino, Avella acknowledged that the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has started conducting larvicide sprayings in certain key areas known for high mosquito populations.
But he said the prevalence of mosquitoes at the College Point Treatment Water Treatment Plant demonstrates why the city should continue to identify locations where mosquito populations are accumulating and also identify whether they are routes y for pathogens.
The senator said a new and refined approach is needed to pinpoint and prevent possible mosquito pathogens before the next outbreak occurs.
“The epicenter for the New York outbreak of West Nile was right here in College Point, and so it is imperative that the city prioritizes this area, identifying what new locations have seen increases of mosquito populations,” Avella said. “The abandoned airport has been targeted for larvicide sprayings, but the water treatment plant here in College Point is one example of a new hotspot that should have been identified.”Zika is a disease caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and conjuctivitis, or red eyes. Infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly as well as other severe fetal brain defects.
As of May 18, there have been 86 reported cases of Zika in New York City, 14 of them involving women who were were pregnant at the time of diagnosis, according to the Health Department. All the victims contracted Zika while visiting other countries and they have all recovered.
The West Nile Virus is commonly transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, the Health Department said. The virus can cause encephalitis—inflammation of the brain—or meningitis—inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. It is not spread by person-to-person contact.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour