Nine more mosquito samples collected in Rockland have tested positive for the West Nile virus – bringing the total so far to 15, the highest level this early in the season since the virus appeared more than a decade ago.
All of the mosquito samples were collected by the Rockland Department of Health during the week of July 2. They were tested by the state Department of Health and results were announced today.
Four of the insects were found in Orangetown, two each in Ramapo and Clarkstown and one in Haverstraw.
No West Nile-positive mosquitoes have been identified yet this season in Westchester. Putnam does not submit samples for testing.
“We are seeing an increase in virus levels at a much earlier stage of the year,” said Brian Hunderfund, director of mosquito control for the Rockland Department of Health.
In 2011, Rockland did not have 15 positive samples until the week of Aug. 5 and in 2010 the number of positives did not reach 15 until the week of Aug. 27, according to records.
The West Nile virus is passed back and forth between birds and mosquitoes. People can contract the virus through a bite from an infected mosquito. The virus can cause a mild, flu-like illness. In some people it can also lead to a potentially fatal brain inflammation.
All of the disease-carrying insects are the culex species of mosquitoes.
Rockland health officials have also submitted samples of the Asian tiger mosquito – a new species in the region – for testing.
Those tests have been negative. Health officials are worried about the Asian tiger mosquito’s spreading disease because it is in aggressive insect that bites during the day.