Three New Yorkers have been sickened by the West Nile virus, becoming the first confirmed cases of the potentially deadly disease in the five boroughs so far this year, health officials said.
The victims, two from The Bronx and one from Queens, are all expected to survive their brush with the mosquito-borne illness, the city health department said.
City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden said that the discovery of the West Nile cases comes after authorities spotted an increasing number of the flying bloodsuckers in every borough but Manhattan.
He urged New Yorkers to remove standing water - in such places as old tires, pools, birdbaths, gutters and even hot tubs - to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.
He also said to make sure screens on windows and doors are secure to keep the dangerous pests away.
People over 50 should take special care, such as wearing mosquito repellant with DEET or eucalyptus oil outdoors, Frieden said.
"These simple steps can help stop the spread of West Nile virus," he said.
The cases are a 61-year-old from The Bronx who got sick on Aug. 16 and a 63-year-old from the same borough who got sick on Aug. 22 - and who also came down with encephalitis. They are now home recovering.
A 44-year-old from Queens was sickened on Aug. 24 and is hospitalized in stable condition.
The three cases this year come after the city went through a light year of West Nile cases in 2004, in which only five cases were confirmed and there were no fatalities. And three of those victims were infected elsewhere.
City officials said they plan to begin ground-based spraying of anti-mosquito pesticides tomorrow.
Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.