‘Fight The Bite’ Against West Nile Virus and EEE

OSWEGO –The Oswego County Health Department is once again reminding residents to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases such as Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and the West Nile Virus (WNV).

mosquitoThe WNV was detected in mosquito samples collected in Central Square and New Haven in July. It is also present in Onondaga County and areas of western and southern New York State. An Oswego County child tested positive for the WNV earlier this month and has recovered at home.

The health department continues its county-wide mosquito surveillance program and has reported that the EEE virus, which claimed the life of an Oswego County girl last year, has not been detected at this time.

The WNV and EEE are viral diseases that are transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito.

The risk of contracting either virus runs from June through September with peak activity late July to mid-August.

“These are different diseases caused by different viruses and transmitted by different mosquito species,” said Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang.

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, according to the New York State Department of Health.

“Most people infected with the WNV do not show any indication of the disease,” said Huang. “Those who develop minor symptoms may have fever, headache, stomach ache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea and occasionally a skin rash and 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).

In rare cases, death can occur.

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. Most people will recover completely, even from a severe infection.

In contrast, EEE is a rarer and more often deadly disease. 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.

EEE is also 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.

Huang said, “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.”

Children under age 15 and adults over age 50 have the greatest risk for contracting the severe disease.

“It is not clear why we are seeing more virus activity in recent years; however, people should continue to be vigilant in their personal protection measures regardless. This is the key to safeguard against these viruses,” said Huang.

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.

In addition, residents can take these protective measures to minimize mosquito populations in and around their homes and properties:

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.

Change the water in birdbaths and horse troughs twice a week.

Dispose of old tires at an Oswego County transfer station. There is a minimum $10 disposal fee. Contact the Oswego County Solid Waste Department at 591-9200 for details.

The Oswego County Health Department continues to work with the New York State Health Department to monitor mosquito and virus activity. Staff collects mosquito samples from a number of trap sites around the county to test for the WNV and EEE and to track through the Mark-Release-Recapture (MRR) project.

“We continue to develop new methods to better understand mosquito activities and improve our surveillance. This helps us to further our preparation for disease prevention and response,” said Huang.

The Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District reports that it has free mosquito dunk kits available through grant funding provided by New York State.

Residents can pick up them up from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at their office on state Route 3 in Volney.

For more information about the free mosquito dunk kits, call the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District at 315-592-9663.

To learn more about protecting your family against mosquitoes, call the Oswego County Health Department at 315-349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547, or visit the New York State Department of Health Web site at www.health.state.ny.us