The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are announcing that two additional Rhode Islanders have been diagnosed with Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) this year. Rhode Island’s total case count for human EEE cases for 2019 is now three. These cases were confirmed by tests done at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The two people whose diagnoses are being announced today have both been discharged from the hospital and are recovering. Based on the time of symptom onset, it is believed that both people contracted EEE in late August. The first person is a child younger than 10 years old who lives in Coventry. The second person is in their 50s from Charlestown. On September 9th, the first person who was diagnosed with EEE this year in Rhode Island passed away. That person lived in West Warwick. All three people contracted the illness before areas of critical risk for EEE were aerially sprayed with pesticide between September 8th and September 10th.

In addition to these human diagnoses, EEE was confirmed in a deer from Exeter this week.

“This has been a year with significantly elevated EEE activity, and mosquitoes will remain a threat in Rhode Island until our first hard frost, which is still several weeks out,” said RIDOH’s Deputy Director Ana Novais. “Personal mosquito-prevention measures remain everyone’s first defense against EEE. If possible, people should limit their time outdoors at sunrise and sunset. If you are going to be out, long sleeves and pants are very important, as is bug spray.”

“Spraying effectively reduces the risk of mosquito-borne disease but if does not eliminate the risk completely,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “Personal protection always is essential to further minimize the risk, and we hope that Rhode Island’s #FightTheBite campaign helps raise public awareness about how important it is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.”

DEM and RIDOH are considering the next steps in Rhode Island’s EEE response. Those steps could include additional aerial spraying based on information about human cases, cases in other mammals, mosquito activity, and findings in neighboring states. Broad and targeted notification will be done in advance of any additional aerial spraying.

The four critical risk areas that were previously sprayed were (1) an area in northern Rhode Island (parts of Burrillville, North Smithfield, and Woonsocket); (2) parts of Westerly, Hopkinton, and Charlestown; (3) all of West Warwick and parts of Coventry, Cranston, Scituate, Warwick, East Greenwich, and West Greenwich; and (4) all of Central Falls, Pawtucket, and North Providence and parts of Providence, East Providence, Smithfield, Lincoln, and Cumberland.

To date this year, EEE has been detected by RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories in six mosquito pools: two from Central Falls, three from Westerly, and one from Block Island. Additionally, one horse from Westerly has tested positive for EEE. RIDOH and DEM had previously announced that two deer had tested positive for EEE (one from Coventry and one from Richmond). A third deer from Exeter has been diagnosed this week. Deer, like horses, cannot transmit EEE to humans. However, they are an indication that infected mosquitoes are present in the area and people need to continue to take precautions.

All Rhode Islanders are urged to continue to #FightTheBite by taking mosquito-prevention measures until the first hard frost of the year (typically mid to late October in Rhode Island).

Protect yourself

– Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that are loose or have holes. – At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes that carry EEE are most active), consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning. If you must be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use bug spray. – Use EPA-approved bug spray with one of the following active ingredients: DEET (20-30% strength); picaridin, IR3535; and oil of lemon eucalyptus or paramenthane. Always read the label and follow all directions and precautions. – Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants under two months of age. Children should be careful not to rub their eyes after bug spray has been applied on their skin. Wash children’s hands with soap and water to remove any bug spray when they return indoors. – Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.

Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds

– Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. Just one cup of water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes; an unused tire containing water can produce thousands of mosquitoes. – Clean your gutters and downspouts so that they can drain properly. – Remove any water from unused swimming pools, wading pools, boats, planters, trash and recycling bins, tires, and anything else that collects water, and cover them. – Remove or treat any shallow water that can accumulate on top of a pool cover. Larvicide treatments, such as Mosquito Dunks can be applied to kill immature mosquitoes. This environmentally-friendly product is available at many hardware and garden stores and on-line. – Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week and rinse out birdbaths once a week.

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