With positive samples of West Nile Virus found throughout Westchester County in recent weeks, do Rye residents have reason to fear? “Yes!”, declared Hen Island resident Ray Tartaglione and his lawyer, Jordan Glass, at the August 6 City Council meeting.
By Rye Record Staff
With positive samples of West Nile Virus found throughout Westchester County in recent weeks, do Rye residents have reason to fear? “Yes!”, declared Hen Island resident Ray Tartaglione and his lawyer, Jordan Glass, at the August 6 City Council meeting. Tartaglione, who lives in Purchase most of the year, has been a regular attendee of Council meetings for years, asking the City to enforce the County health code on Hen Island. His larger goal is to have the government build pipelines from the mainland to bring potable water and a sewer system to the island.
At the Council meeting, Tartaglione unleashed a torrent of attacks on City officials. He accused the City of failing to inform the public about the latest New York State Laboratory test results from larva specimens drawn from samples on Hen Island, which indicate high concentrations of West Nile Virus (WNV). He further charged the City with “endangering” the health of Rye residents. In between attacking the character of various City officials, Tartaglione expressed alarm over the threat from West Nile to children in camp programs at the Rye Nature Center and the many shore clubs. He urged the City to immediately close Hen Island until these “life-threatening conditions are resolved.”
City Manager Scott Pickup adamantly denied having received any official report of positive WNV testing in Rye. He added, “And Hen Island is probably the most inspected piece of property in Rye.”
Councilwoman Catherine Parker asked Tartaglione to give the Council the results he claimed to have from the County. He refused.
The Rye Record contacted both the County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more answers. According to County officials, the first mosquito batches to test positive for the virus were found in Mamaroneck last month. The total countywide is now 17. According to the New York State Department of Health, as of August 9, out of the 470 reported positive mosquito pools this year, there have been four human cases in New York: two upstate, one in Staten Island, and one in Suffolk County.
Rye Nature Center Executive Director Christine Siller assured the community that their center is regularly inspected for a variety of diseases, including West Nile Virus, in order to operate camps. “We would have been notified by the County if any traces were found on the premises,” Siller said.
A few facts about West Nile Virus: About 80% of people who become infected with WNV have no symptoms, 19% experience mild symptoms such as fever and headache, and only one in 150 people will develop a serious illness. More serious illnesses from West Nile Virus have been reported so far this year than any since 2004. There have been about two dozen deaths in the United States this summer, including nine in Texas, but none in New York.
While there is no cause for alarm, notwithstanding Tartaglione’s allegations, all mosquitoes need to breed is a small amount of standing, unfiltered water. Rye’s marshlands and wetlands are a perfect habitat for mosquitoes. Every summer, the County encourages residents to take precautionary measures, including removing any still water in gutters, birdbaths, buckets, etc., as well as applying bug spray when outdoors, especially at dusk.
Health officials believe the mild winter, early spring, and very hot summer have fostered breeding of the mosquitoes that spread the virus to people. Most West Nile infections are reported in August and September, so it’s not yet clear how bad 2012 will be.