The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and Rhode Island Department of Health on Wednesday announced the detection of the first mosquito sample of 2022 that has tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEE) and of the first mosquito sample of 2022 that has tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). The EEE-positive sample of mosquitoes was collected in South Kingstown, and the WNV-positive sample of mosquitoes was collected in Westerly, both on August 9.
Although extremely rare in humans, EEE is very serious. Approximately 30% of people with EEE die, and many survivors have ongoing neurologic problems. For more information on EEE and ways to prevent it, please visit health.ri.gov/eee. WNV is much more prevalent than EEE. It became established in North America following its introduction in 1999. WNV and EEE will become more prevalent as the season progresses, so DEM and the RIDOH continue to advise residents to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes until the first hard frost. (A hard frost is when the air and the ground freeze below 32°F for three hours or below 28°F for two hours.)
Thus far, neither Massachusetts nor Connecticut has reported any EEE findings, and there have been no human or animal cases of WNV or EEE reported this year in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, or Connecticut.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health reported 80 WNV-positive isolations from mosquito pools collected, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported 33 recent isolations of WNV in mosquito samples collected. This is expected at this time because mosquito-borne diseases become more prevalent as the summer season progresses.
Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that may carry WNV, EEE, or other diseases – and the most effective way to avoid infection. With WNV established in the state, residents are reminded to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds and prevent being bitten, whenever possible. The following precautions are advised.
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.
Remove mosquito breeding grounds – Remove items around your house and yard that collect 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 online. – Clean and change water in birdbaths at least once a week.
Best practices for horse owners Horses are particularly susceptible to WNV and EEE. Horse owners are advised to vaccinate their animals early in the season and practice the following:
– Remove or cover areas where standing water can collect. – Avoid putting animals outside at dawn, dusk, or during the night when mosquitoes are most active. – Insect-proof facilities where possible and use approved repellents frequently. – Monitor animals for symptoms of fever and/or neurological signs (such as stumbling, moodiness, loss of appetite) and report all suspicious cases to a veterinarian immediately. If you are unsure if your horse is properly vaccinated, you should consult with your veterinarian.
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