Rockaway Beach, Queens – In repose to numerous concerns over mosquito breeding and the potential spread of West Nile Virus in Sandy-affected communities in southern Queens and Rockaway, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D – Rockaway) met with representatives from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). The visit, arranged at the agency’s request, served as a briefing on efforts to control mosquito populations and fight the spread of deadly West Nile Virus.
“Every summer, families across southern Queens and Rockaway deal with the onslaught of mosquitos any time we step outside. That’s why it’s so important we understand the potential risks posed by West Nile Virus and dispel any confusion about this deadly disease. I give tremendous credit to Commissioner Bassett and the Health Department for being proactive in educating the community on West Nile and mosquito breeding. I look forward to helping inform our families how the city controls mosquito populations and what we can all do to stay safe and healthy this summer,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder.
“The Health Department has a robust process for evaluating and addressing mosquito populations in order to reduce the threat of West Nile virus throughout New York City. We apply larvicide to every sewer catch basin in the City three times during mosquito season, we treat wet, marshy areas known to be mosquito breeding grounds, and we respond to complaints about standing water,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Working with partners such as Assembly Member Goldfeder, we will concentrate additional efforts, such as more surveillance and community outreach, in areas with high mosquito populations to further ensure that we are taking all of the necessary steps to minimize any health risks during mosquito season.”
Assemblyman Goldfeder sat down in his Rockaway office with DOHMH Assistant Commissioner Mario Merlino. Merlino, who heads Veterinary and Pest Control Services at the agency’s Division of Environmental Health, was invited at the agency’s request in an effort explain mosquito spraying and West Nile Virus testing efforts; and to dispel any misconceptions surrounding the potential public health threat.
The meeting came about after Goldfeder made a highly-publicized request to DOHMH late last month to conduct mosquito sprayings in the Sandy-affected communities of Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach and Lindenwood. According to the Assemblyman’s release at the time, the zip code encompassing these communities had been left off of list of neighborhoods slated for sprayings.
According to Merlino, the agency maintains and monitors a base of approximately 60 test sites throughout the city placed in locations with a historic West Nile Virus presence. This helps the agency to confirm cases of West Nile-carrying mosquitos and inform spraying campaigns. The Assistant Commissioner explained that while the salt marsh mosquitos found in areas around Jamaica Bay are known to bite humans during the day and can be a considerable nuisance, they are not generally carriers of the virus. Still, the agency has a test site in nearby Howard Beach that it monitors regularly.
Assemblyman Goldfeder urged the agency to review its placement of testing sites throughout southern Queens and Rockaway to evaluate historic West Nile Virus patterns and consider new sites in light of the increase in standing water at Sandy-abandoned properties. Goldfeder also encouraged Merlino and his staff to consider engaging the public at local civic associations to better inform the community about West Nile Virus and mosquito spraying campaigns.
“Education is the best defense against the spread of West Nile Virus. By better understanding the risks and how the virus spreads, we can help ensure a safe and healthy summer for all our families,” concluded Goldfeder.