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Family of Girl Killed by EEE Virus Praises Decision to Spray but Says County Needs to Move Faster in the Future

Dr. Dennis Norfleet, at right, discusses the county's decision to seek emergency authority to spray areas where Eastern equine encephalitis has been found.  County Administrator Phil Church is at left.
Dr. Dennis Norfleet, at right, discusses the county's decision to seek emergency authority to spray areas where Eastern equine encephalitis has been found. County Administrator Phil Church is at left.

Oswego County will spray areas of the county to try to kill mosquitoes carrying a deadly virus, as what the county’s top health official calls an “unusual” outbreak continues to spread.

County Public Health Director Dr. Dennis Norfleet said the county is seeking emergency authority from the state Health Department to spray.

The decision was made after more pools of mosquitoes were tested and found to have the Eastern equine encephalitis virus. One pool was in a new area, along Paradise Rd. in Palermo. The rest were in the traditional breeding ground of mosquitoes in the swampy area along the north shore of Oneida Lake.

Once the state allows the spraying, the county will be able to say when and where the spraying will take place.

Norfleet called this year’s outbreak unusual. “Usually what we see is Triple-E emerging in the Toad Bay area and we see it cook down there in that region before we see it in any other place in the county….as we see the concentration building up, that’s when we will make the decision to spray. This year, we saw first samples coming out of the swamp and in other areas all at the same time, so that made it very different.” (Video of the full news conference is below.)

The county found mosquitoes carrying the virus in the village of Central Square and towns of Volney, Albion and Scriba.

The decision to attempt to spray came at the end of a day of intense criticism of the county for its decision not to spray.

The criticism came from the family of Maggie Sue Glenister Wilcox. The four year old New Haven girl died Sunday from Eastern equine encephaliltis, a week after she lapsed into seizures.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, members of Wilcox’s family called the decision not to spray irresponsible and sickening.

Maggie Sue Glenister Wilcox
Maggie Sue Glenister Wilcox

Norfleet maintained that the unusual, widespread nature of the outbreak actually worked against spraying because the goal is to spray areas where the virus is concentrated. Though the virus was found in many areas, it was not found in high concentrations.

“If you just go out and spray anywhere, it’s not going to have the effect that you want,” Norfleet said. “We want to be able to find concentrated areas of the virus to go in and knock down the concentration.”

Donna Wilcox, the young victim’s aunt told Oswego County Today Tuesday night that “needless to say, her (Maggie’s) parents and the entire family are very happy that they reversed the decision and are going to spray.”

“We can’t stand the thought of another family going through what we’ve had to go through,” she added. “It’s been horrible. We are definitely very thankful they will be spraying.”

She said they have some concerns, however.

The county announced its first positive test for mosquitoes with EEE on July 28, she said. Maggie showed the first symptoms of the illness on Aug. 4.

They say the incubation period is 2 to 10 days, which means the child may have already contracted the disease before the first announcement, she noted.

Somehow, the county needs to set its traps earlier and report sooner she continued.

“Had we gotten a warning before she was sick things might have turned out differently,” she said. “They have to get information to the public sooner if possible.”

[Oswego Editor Steve Yablonski contributed to this story.]

Video of the county’s news conference:

1 Comment

  1. To Maggie”s family my deepest sympathy it has to be horrible losing such a little precious child. You are right they should of let people now whats going on before something happens like losing somebody. I say to people they don’t communicate with the public. We deserve to know things that are going on in any community.

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