STATEN ISLAND, NY – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) announced on Sunday pressure on federal funds to combat a surge in mosquito activity tied to a record-breaking West Nile virus season.
Schumer called for a two-pronged approach that would ensure that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to direct resources to New York while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) receives a federal budget increase that allows the agency would be better to respond to the sharp increase in mosquito population.
“Ask every guest outside about the mosquitos this summer and you will feel a lot of itching,” said Schumer. “This is actually one of the worst mosquito seasons in recent times, with a record number of insects plaguing communities across New York – from the city to Long Island and the hinterland.”
“More worryingly, the concentrations of the potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease, West Nile virus, continue to grow, and this could last well into fall due to a very wet summer and climate change,” added Schumer . “So today we are pushing a two-pronged plan that includes the EPA and CDC so that our region has the dollars and resources to drive back the mosquito and its diseases before they spread.”
Last week, the city’s health department announced that it had identified record-breaking numbers of mosquito pools with West Nile virus positive in the five counties that have already surpassed the previous high from 2018 and remain for weeks into this year’s season.
Nine cases of the West Nile virus have been found in New York residents since April, including one on Staten Island, the agency said.
Officials said the increased rainfall and warmer temperatures this summer could create ideal conditions for mosquitoes to populate standing pools in New York City.
Schumer is seeking a 61% increase in annual funding for the CDC’s vector-borne diseases, which includes West Nile virus. Two specific efforts – the CDC Regional Centers of Excellence in Vector-borne Diseases and the CDC Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) Grant Program – are key to improving disease prevention surveillance, testing and response.
According to Schumer, the increase in funds would help improve coordination between the institutions and the state and local health authorities. As a result, information can be disseminated to communities more quickly, while support and monitoring efforts can be carried out more effectively.
By providing more money, states like New York could provide more money as the mosquito season intensifies or lasts longer.
Schumer also penned a letter to EPO Administrator Michael Regan asking for a virtual meeting with New York officials to ensure the agency had adequate access to non-chemical mosquito control agents.
âAs you probably know, New York State has seen an increase in mosquitoes this year.
“With government and local agencies and the public playing a role in mosquito control, it is vital that the EPA ensure that this information is widely available,” added Schumer. âWhile I appreciate the EPA making this important information available on their website, I feel it is imperative that the EPA hold a virtual meeting with state and local mosquito control agencies to ensure that they have the most effective control tools in place and that they do so appropriately can convey information to the public. “
West Nile virus infection can cause mild or moderate fever, and about 80% of people infected have no symptoms. However, people with weakened immune systems can get serious and potentially fatal infections of the brain and spinal cord.
Common symptoms are headache, fever, muscle pain, and extreme fatigue, while more severe illnesses may include changes in mental state and muscle weakness that require hospitalization.
So far, officials have said the city health department has carried out three aerial larvicide applications in the wetlands of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, along with 21 spray surgeries for adult mosquitoes.
The majority of New Yorkers diagnosed with West Nile virus are not using any repellants or taking other precautions, the city health department said.
To reduce exposure to mosquitoes, use approved insect repellants. the Environmental Protection Agency website can be searched by product and duration of effect.
Also, make sure the windows have screens and replace screens with cracks or holes.
Residents should remove standing water from their property and dispose of containers in which water can be collected, the city health department said. Also clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs, and keep them empty or covered when not in use.