Schumer wants funds to help take bite out of bad mosquito year, West Nile Virus

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In a new push to combat what has become one of the worst mosquito seasons across New York, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer has announced a new push to help zap the mosquitos that seem to be taking over communities across New York. Schumer revealed that this summer, many communities throughout Upstate New York had a case of West Nile, the serious and potentially deadly mosquito-borne virus.

Schumer also detailed data from New York State that shows dozens of mosquito samples there have tested positive for West Nile, too.

“Ask any outdoor diner about the mosquitos this summer, and you’ll feel a resounding itch,” said Schumer. “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.”

“Even more concerning, pools of the potentially-deadly mosquito-borne disease, West Nile Virus, continue to grow, and this could last well into fall because of a very wet summer and climate change. So, today, we are pushing a two-pronged plan involving the EPA and the CDC so that our area has the dollars and the resources to beat back the mosquito and its diseases before they spread,” Schumer added.

Schumer said data shows this is one of the worst summers in terms of the mosquito population—but that this could all last well into fall. Schumer said that a particularly wet summer and a changing climate are giving mosquitos the right conditions to suck New York dry of patience and the federal dollars used to beat them back. Schumer announced a two-pronged push to ensure the EPA keeps resources coming to New York and an upcoming budget boost to increase CDC ‘vector borne disease’ dollars delivered by the agency to ensure New York State has the resources they need to survey, test, educate and respond to dramatic increases in the mosquito population, such as the one we are seeing this summer, and could keep seeing into the future.

For example, 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. Similarly, according to the New York City Health Department, a record-breaking 1,000-plus West Nile virus-positive mosquito pools have been identified and there is at least one case of the West Nile Virus in each of the five boroughs. The Health Department told media, these current numbers break 2018 records for the entire mosquito season, which still has weeks to go this year. 

Schumer has officially requested a 61% increase in annual funding for the CDC’s Vector-Borne Diseases programs, which includes West Nile. Specifically, he is pushing to support two key programs essential to VBD prevention, surveillance, testing, and response activities: the CDC Regional Centers of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases and CDC Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grant program. This funding would increase the coordination between academic institutions and state and local departments of health to ensure research findings and information are getting out into the community more rapidly, support surveillance efforts, and promote outreach and education.

The CDC Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grant program is critical for efforts related to the surveillance, detection, response, and prevention of infectious diseases, including VBD.

According to AMNY, “West Nile virus can be mild or moderate, with 80% of those infected having no symptoms at all, however it can prove to be serious for those over 50 and can cause serious or fatal infection to the brain and spine. The most common symptoms are headache, fever, muscle aches, and extreme fatigue, while more severe symptoms can also include changes in mental status and muscle weakness requiring hospitalization. Most who are infected with West Nile virus will go on to fully recover from their illness, however, some continue to have problems months after infection.” The outlet also reported, “there are currently 106 mosquito traps throughout the city and several catch basins have been treated with larvicide. Schumer confirmed, the Health Department has conducted three aerial applications of larvicide in the marsh areas of Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, as well as 21 spray operations to control adult mosquitoes in the last several weeks.

Schumer explained that across New York, this surveying, educating and mitigation costs money and involves two federal agencies: the EPA and the CDC. Schumer, today, announced a two-pronged push to keep the EPA resources coming and his intention to increase the CDC dollars New York can access as all signs point to mosquito seasons lasting longer.

In 2020 the CDC’s DVBD received requests for nearly $50 million from the state departments of health for VBD through the ELC program. However, the account was only able to support $16.1 million, less than a third of the needed resources to address VBD across the nation at the state and county level.

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