Climate change fueling mosquito explosion in NYC, experts say

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Summer maybe over, but a mosquito explosion in New York City is expected to last well into the fall -- and experts are pointing the finger at climate change.

This summer had some of the highest levels of mosquitoes with a record breaking 1,000+ West Nile virus cases across all five boroughs, according to the city Department of Health.

Some ecologists believe the spike in mosquitoes is due to more flooding, tropical systems, and hot weather, all which are linked to climate change.

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Senator Charles Schumer wants a 61% increase in CDC funding that covers West Nile prevention, and he also wants the EPA to help provide better ways to kill mosquitoes without chemicals.

"Ask any outdoor diner about the mosquitos this summer, and you'll feel a resounding itch," she said. "This is actually one of the worst mosquito seasons in recent memory, with a record number of the bugs plaguing communities across New York from the city to Buffalo and all throughout New York state."

According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, Onondaga County has experienced 25 times more mosquitoes this year than last.

This year, Onondaga County tallied 12,543 mosquitoes in the second week of September, compared to 488 during the same time last year.

The virus is spread by the bite of a mosquito infected with the West Nile virus. It is not spread from person to person, and many people infected do not become ill and may not develop symptoms.

About 20% of infected people will develop West Nile fever. When symptoms occur, they may be mild or severe.

Mild symptoms include flu-like illness with fever, headache, body aches, nausea and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back, while severe symptoms include high fever, neck stiffness and swelling of the brain (encephalitis) which can lead to coma, convulsions and death.

Less than 1% of infected people will develop severe symptoms. People over the age of 50 and people with weak immune systems are at greater risk of developing severe illness.

Tips for reducing mosquitoes around homes:
--Eliminate standing water suitable for mosquitoes
--Dispose of water-holding containers, such as ceramic pots, used tires, and tire swings
--Drill holes in the bottom of containers such as those used for recycling
--Clean clogged roof gutters.
--Turn over objects that may trap water when not in use, such as wading pools and wheelbarrows
--Change water in bird baths on a weekly basis
--Clean and chlorinate swimming pools. When pools are not in use, use pool covers and drain when necessary

Tips for avoiding mosquito bites when outdoors:
--Be particularly careful at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
--Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts. Clothing material should be tightly woven.
--Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors.
--Consider the use of CDC-recommended mosquito repellents, containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535, or 2-undecanone, and apply according to directions, when it is necessary to be outdoors.
--When using DEET, use the lowest concentration effective for the time spent outdoors (for example, 6% lasts approximately two hours and 20% for four hours) and wash treated skin when returning indoors. Do not apply under clothing, to wounds or irritated skin, the hands of children, or to infants less than two months old.
--Be sure door and window screens are tight fitting and in good repair to avoid mosquito bites when indoors.

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