As West Nile Virus Spreads Across the US, Cases Hold Steady in Metro Area

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West Nile Virus is on the upswing elsewhere in the country, but in this region — where the disease was first discovered in North America — it remains relatively mild.

So far this year, there are more than 1,100 cases of the disease nationwide — higher than any previous year. There have also been 41 deaths across the country.

But in New York City, there have only been five reported cases of the mosquito-borne illness so far in 2012.

"This year we are experiencing a hot summer, and a hot summer will increase the risk of West Nile Virus infection," said Dr. Waheed Bajwa, head of the city Health Department's Office of Vector Surveillance and Control. "The level of the virus is somewhat higher this year than the last year but somewhat lower than what we saw in 2010 to this point in the season."

There have been 18 cases, on average, over the last five years. That number is a little misleading because there was a spike in reported cases in 2010 that has driven up the average. But even excluding that spike, the city still sees about 12 cases a year — most of them by the end of August.

"There's no epidemic of West Nile Virus in the city, and there's no outbreak in the city," Bajwa said.

New Jersey and Connecticut have each had two reported cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New York City sprays larvicide by helicopter in non-residential areas of every borough except Manhattan to kill the immature mosquitoes. The spraying begins in June and runs through August.

Larvicide spraying is scheduled for Thursday night in parts of southern Brooklyn, including Canarsie, Marine Park and Mill Basin. There are currently no other sprayings scheduled, but the Health Department said that could change, depending on what turns up from monitoring the presence of the virus in mosquito ponds and infected animals and people.