City officials last Thursday celebrated the completion of a campaign to combat the spread of West Nile virus in the New Haven area.

Primarily transmitted by mosquitoes, West Nile virus poses a perennial concern to public health. After four cities in Connecticut tested positive for West Nile virus this summer, departments across the local government — including Health and Elderly Services — worked in concert to carry out the initiative. City spokesman Laurence Grotheer said the city’s plan operates on several fronts, including distributing pamphlets and mosquito repellent as well as spraying larvicide.

In a press release about the city’s plan, Mayor Toni Harp noted the campaign’s timely nature, as peak mosquito season arrives this month.

“It’s no secret how mosquitoes carry the virus, and these next couple months are when those virus-infected mosquitoes pose the greatest risk,” Harp said.

Grotheer said the city disseminated pamphlets containing information about West Nile virus, its associated symptoms and how residents can shield themselves from infection. Director Paul Kowalski of the Bureau of Environmental Health later elaborated on these protective measures, which include wearing long, loose-fitting clothing, preventing standing water from accumulating and being especially careful during activities at dawn or dusk.

City epidemiologist Brian Weeks said immunocompromised populations — groups with weakened abilities to fight infection — are particularly susceptible to West Nile virus, making the city’s efforts even more vital. To that end, the city took a direct approach to fighting virus transmission, particularly among New Haven’s elderly, Grother said. Hundreds of vials of mosquito repellent were distributed to the city’s senior centers and more are available at Health Department offices.

The city also undertook a “wholesale effort” to reduce mosquito populations, Grotheer said, engaging the Department of Public Works to apply a mosquito larvicide to storm drains and culverts. According to the city’s press release, this chemical is target-specific, so humans and other animals face no risk of harm from its use.

Weeks emphasized that the city’s campaign was meant to advise, not to inflict fear. He said residents should not necessarily be worried about West Nile virus, but should be aware of mosquito season’s peak.

Weeks also said city residents should know that a lack of symptoms does not indicate an absence of infection.

“There are asymptomatic cases that can develop later in life into a chronic condition,” he said, adding that immunocompromised populations — groups with weakened abilities to fight disease — face the greatest risk.

Despite these efforts at education and protection, the New Haven Register reported last Friday that a New Haven resident was confirmed to have been infected with West Nile virus. When asked about the implications of this finding, Grotheer remained positive.

“Every confirmed case reinforces the need for mosquito mitigation programs,” he said.

Kowalski reacted similarly, saying that the best the city can do is to educate the public and apply larvicide where possible.

Symptoms of West Nile virus infection include fever, aches and other flu-like symptoms.

Will Wang