Tag Archives: West Nile

West Nile spraying in Queens this week


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Courtesy of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

With summer in the city comes humidity, mosquitoes and the threat of West Nile Virus.

To help fight the spread of the virus, the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will apply larvicide by helicopter to locations throughout Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island beginning today.

The locales are marshy, non-residential areas that are natural breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

In Queens, areas of Alley Pond Park, College Point and Edgemere will be targeted.

Last year, the city saw 11 cases of West Nile, five in Queens.

A Queens woman passed away in March from what the family said was complications from West Nile. The city’s health department is investigating the report.

To help reduce the number of mosquitoes breeding on residents’ property, the health department said to eliminate standing water, clean your gutters and clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs and keep them empty or covered when not in use.

The marsh areas inside Alley Pond Park, the abandoned Flushing airport bounded by the Whitestone Expressway to the east, 20th Avenue to the north, 130th Avenue and Ulmer Street to the west and Ulmer Street and 28th Street to the south and Dubos Point and Edgemere Park bounded by Norton Basin to the east, Mott Point to the north, Grass Hassock Channel to the west and Beach 65th Street, De Costa Avenue and Almeda Avenue to the south.

The spraying began today at 6 a.m. and will last until 7 p.m.  The schedule will be repeated tomorrow and Wednesday.

College Point woman allegedly died of West Nile


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Maria Coppola 2w

The family of a 71-year-old College Point woman who allegedly died of West Nile virus said they sway between incredible sadness and extreme anger at the city.

“This could have been prevented. They should have sprayed. They shouldn’t wait for a fatality to happen,” said Francis Coppola, 50.

He said his mother, Maria Coppola, was bitten by mosquitoes three times — on the eye, ear and arm — last year on August 10, while sitting outside on her porch. While he said the family was unsure where exactly she contracted the virus, he said she did not travel and was bedridden even before she was allegedly diagnosed with the disease soon after in September. She died on March 31 of this year.

Family members pointed to nearby areas of stagnant water as close as 200 yards away — and flu-like symptoms Maria suffered, indicative of the virus — as obvious signs of West Nile, but the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said they are looking into the death before deeming Coppola another West Nile victim.

“The Health Department is investigating a report that a Queens woman died from complications of West Nile virus,” the agency said in a statement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the United States saw 44 total cases of West Nile virus — which resulted in two deaths — last year. Statistics on the health department’s website show 181 mosquito pools were found in New York City in 2011, including 89 in Queens, and of the nine severe cases of West Nile reported then, four were from Queens.

The disease first emerged in the country in 1999, and nearly all cases were detected within a 75-mile radius of New York City, the CDC said. Since then, the agency said more than 30,000 people have been affected and more than 1,200 have died.

City health officials said the department sprayed the College Point area three times last year. They also said all catch basins in the neighborhood were treated three times as well.

Still, the family said there were actually no sprays conducted, and efforts were not enough to deter mosquitoes from breeding near three stagnant water sources nearby. Francis said the family’s home is located near two sewer pools, high rising weeds on the nearby waterfront and a broken pothole that fills with rain water on 23rd Avenue and 119th Street.

Their complaints have fallen on deaf ears, he said.

“It’s clearly known that this area is ground zero,” Francis said. “The mayor knows we have this going on here. Do something about it. I don’t want to start pandemonium, but apparently we have already.”

Maria helped operate a family-run pizzeria in College Point with her husband of 55 years, Frank, the family said. Francis said his mother came to America with only $2 in her pocket and died a successful woman with five children.

“It’s very tough,” husband Frank, 79, said through tears. “She was my right arm. She was everything to me. She was cut short of her life.”

Whitestone man gets West Nile


| tcimino@queenscourier.com

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Dominick Totino said it took six years – and a diagnosis of West Nile Virus in his elderly father – for his Whitestone neighbor to finally clean up his property – kind of.

Totino said his 86-year-old father Giuseppe, who suffers from heart problems, spent 12 days in St. Francis Hospital at the end of August.

“He had an infection the doctors couldn’t find,” said the photographer for Borough President Helen Marshall. “He was on antibiotics and was released because he was stable. My sister asked for tests for Lyme disease and West Nile.”

When the results came back positive for West Nile, Totino said “everything started to make sense.”

“My first inclination was the house next door – it’s been overgrown for six years,” he said. “Every time we see him we ask him to cut it back. It took this. All the adjacent houses have well-manicured yards.”

The Totinos (Dominick lives next door to his dad, mom and sister) say the house in question on 18th Avenue has been vacant since it was purchased.

They say they have contacted 3-1-1 and even City Councilmember Dan Halloran.

According to the Department of Buildings web site, the property – reportedly in and out of foreclosure – has eight violations, dating back to May, 2008. And according to reports, in 2007, the owner was fined $25,000 by the Environmental Control Board.

Totino, who has been chronicling the problem for years, said following media attention, the owner “said he was sorry and vowed to clean up the property.”

“He showed up with men, only because I put so much pressure on him and because of my dad.”

However, Totino says that the clean-up effort was half-hearted at best.

“As we speak there are 30 black bags of weeds in the yard. They only cut the vegetation down. If it continues to rain we’ll be back to where we were.”

And, he said, a recent inspection by the Department of Health, which reportedly found no evidence of standing water, was “a complete waste of time.”

“They did the inspection from the sidewalk and it hadn’t even rained.”