After not reporting any human West Nile virus (WNV) cases in three years, health officials in Onondaga County in Central New York have reported the second case of 2017.


The WNV case was diagnosed in an elderly person who is hospitalized but in stable condition. This follows a report of an infection in Syracuse child two weeks ago.

Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta said WNV is spread by the bite of a mosquito infected with the virus. “West Nile virus has been found in numerous mosquito traps throughout the county this summer, and is considered to be endemic, or widespread.”

While most people infected with WNV do not develop symptoms, 1 in 5 people who are infected develop a fever with symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Severe illness can strike at any age, however, people over 60 years of age and people with certain medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, or who have received organ transplants, are at higher risk. Symptoms of severe illness may include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, seizures, paralysis, and coma that could lead to death. There is no vaccine or specific treatment for WNV infection, other than to treat the symptoms and provide supportive care. Consult with your healthcare provider if you are concerned that you have any of these signs or symptoms.

Dr. Gupta said, “The best way to avoid West Nile Virus infection is to protect yourself from mosquito bites.” Personal protection is recommended during outdoor activities by wearing shoes, socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt when outside. Applying a mosquito repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or IR3535 is also recommended to prevent mosquito bites. Do not allow children to handle repellent. Put a small amount of repellent on your hands and apply it to your child. Do not put insect repellent on your face. Wash skin and clothing after returning indoors. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for application.

In addition to the news of WNV, health officials also reported the presence of Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEEV) in a mosquito pool in Onondaga County.

It was collected last week from a trap located in the town of Lysander. Dr. Gupta explained, “EEE is an extremely rare but serious infection that causes encephalitis or inflammation of the brain. It is spread by the bite of a mosquito infected with EEEV.” People over the age of 50 and younger than the age of 15 are at greatest risk for developing severe disease when infected with EEEV.