Westchester County Executive George Latimer recommends residents follow the Health Department’s West Nile Virus prevention advice to remove standing water after it rains and to wear repellents. With periods of rain projected for this weekend’s weather forecast, Latimer is also encouraging residents to take advantage of free minnow distribution at Westchester County Airport on Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 2 Loop Road, West Harrison.

Latimer said: “Mosquitoes are mostly a nuisance but they can carry diseases, including West Nile Virus. We can keep mosquitoes from breeding and biting us in our own backyards if we pour out standing water after it rains and remove or turn over wheelbarrows and watering cans. To keep you and your family safer when spending time outdoors, it’s also a good idea to use repellents.”

On Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7, the County Health Department is giving away 300 pounds of free minnows for backyard ponds and water features, to help residents keep their backyards free of mosquito breeding sites. To pick up the minnows, residents should bring a bucket or pail. Minnows will be distributed in watertight plastic bags. To keep the minnows viable, residents should plan to bring them straight home and release them immediately into ponds with at least eight inches of water. They are not needed in ponds that have fish because the fish serve the same purpose.

The Westchester County Department of Health is highlighting these prevention recommendations now because rain and warmer weather promote mosquito reproduction. By removing standing water, residents can help reduce the mosquito population.

Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD, said: “Rain sets the stage for mosquitoes to breed, and adult mosquitoes bite close to their breeding grounds. That’s why it’s so important to remove standing water around your home now and throughout the spring and summer and to use repellents, especially at dawn and at dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.”

The Health Department will also offer advice and strategies to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile Virus. Throughout the season, the Department traps and tests mosquitoes to track the presence of mosquito-borne viruses in the County. In July and August, County Health Department mosquito surveillance typically identifies mosquitoes in Westchester that test positive for West Nile Virus. Last year, West Nile Virus was identified in four local mosquito batches and three people were diagnosed with West Nile Virus. 

West Nile Virus infection most often causes a mild or moderate flu-like illness, but can be more serious particularly for people 60 and older, and those with other health complications.

To reduce the chances for mosquitoes to breed and bite around your home, watch this brief video on the Department of Health website and follow these tips:

  • Avoid the outdoors in the late afternoon and early evening when mosquitoes are active and feeding, and use insect repellents when outdoors during these times. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label.
  • Adults can apply insect repellents with up to 30 percent DEET on infants two months of age and older by applying the product to their own hands and then rubbing their hands on their children.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts and socks when outdoors, especially where mosquitoes are active and feeding.
  • Check your property for containers, wading pools, tires or garden tools that should be put away or turned over to prevent water collection.
  • Drill holes in the bottoms of all recycling containers kept outdoors.
  • Change the water in birdbaths at least twice weekly.
  • Keep storm drains and gutters clear of leaves and debris.
  • Chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor spas and hot tubs and if not chlorinated, drain any water that collects on their covers.
  • Large areas of standing water on public property that cannot easily be removed should be reported to the Health Department at (914) 813-5000.

For more information, download the “Keep Healthy and Bug Off” brochure.