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Protect Yourself Against Mosquito-Borne Illnesses
Published Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 by Christine Schuyler in Chautauqua County Health Department

Mosquito Pools Test Positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus in Chautauqua County

MAYVILLE, N.Y. –The Chautauqua County Department of Health & Human Services (CCDHHS) is urging residents to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites and protect themselves from potential exposure to the mosquito-borne illnesses West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). The DHHS, Public Health Division, has received notification from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) Arbovirus Laboratory of EEE and WNV positive mosquito pools in southern Chautauqua County. The NYSDOH has a robust mosquito surveillance program which includes regularly testing mosquito pools in various areas in the County and across New York State. While WNV was detected in a mosquito pool in the County in 2006 and 2012, this is the first time that EEE has been detected in Western New York.

“The WNV and EEE are serious viral diseases that are transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. Having said that, they are different diseases caused by different viruses and transmitted by different mosquito species,” said Christine Schuyler, Director of CCDHHS. “The key to safeguarding against these illnesses is to take basic precautions to avoid mosquito bites,” said Schuyler.

  • People are urged to follow these precautions to defend against mosquito bites:
  • Use insect repellent properly. Those that contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus are most effective but should be used with care. Read the product label and use according to package instructions.
  • Limit outdoor activities in areas where mosquitoes are most active and between dusk and dawn which is the peak mosquito biting time.
  • If you have to be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, shoes and socks as weather permits.
  • Repair or replace all window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Reduce or eliminate all standing water.
  • Empty or dispose of pails, cans, flower pots, or similar water-holding containers.
  • Clear roof gutters, remove leaf debris from yards and gardens, and clean vegetation and debris from the edge of ponds.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows and wading pools when not in use.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs and drain pool covers.
  • Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds
  • Change the water in birdbaths and horse troughs twice a week.
  • Dispose properly of old tires.

The risk of contracting either the EEE virus or the WNV runs from June through September with peak activity late July to August. In the last 12 years, New York State has reported 490 human cases of the WNV with 37 fatalities as compared with only five reported human cases of EEE in the last 40 years, all of which were fatal.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a rare illness in humans but often a deadly disease. It is transmitted by mosquitoes and can affect humans, birds, horses and other mammals. Most people bitten by an infected mosquito will not develop any signs; however, of those who do, symptoms usually appear four to ten days later. Signs of EEE infection begin with a sudden headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, coma or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). It causes death in most cases; however, some people will survive the infection and have mild to severe brain damage for life. There is no specific treatment for EEE; care is based on symptoms.

While people of all ages are at risk for EEE infection, children under age 15 and adults over age 50 have the greatest risk for contracting the severe disease.

West Nile virus (WNV)
West Nile virus (WNV) is also a mosquito-borne infection that can cause illness and occasionally death. Symptoms of the WNV usually develop within 3 to 14 days after exposure; however, it may take up to three weeks for signs to appear in those with weakened immune systems. Many people who contract WNV do not experience any type of illness; an estimated 20 percent of people who become infected will develop mild symptoms including fever, headache, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea and possibly a skin rash or swollen lymph glands. The person’s health usually improves after several days, but they may feel tired, weak and generally unwell for weeks. Less than 1 percent of people infected will develop severe symptoms that affect the central nervous system. These include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, coma, or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Most people will recover completely from WNV, even from a severe infection although in rare cases, death can occur.

While people of all ages are at risk for WNV infection, adults age 50 and older and people with certain medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and organ transplants are at the greatest risk of developing serious symptoms.

Vaccine
There is no commercially available human vaccine for either WNV or EEE. The best way to protect yourself is to keep mosquitoes from biting you. EEE and WNV vaccines are available for horses in consultation with a veterinarian.

For more information on West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), please visit:

www.health.ny.gov/diseases/west_nile_virus/fact_sheet.htm
www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/eastern_equine_encephalitis/fact_sheet.htm.
The NYSDOH 2012 Mosquito Borne Illness Surveillance & Response Plan can be found at:
http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/west_nile_virus/docs/2012_mosquito_borne_illness_surveillance_and_response_plan.pdf

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