OSWEGO, NY – Last year, the deadly illness Eastern Equine Encephalitis took its ultimate toll on Aug. 14. Maggie Sue Glenister Wilcox, a five-year-old girl from New Haven died from the mosquito-borne disease.
In an effort to prevent this tragedy from being repeated, local and state officials gathered in the board room at the Oswego Education Center in October for a three-hour forum on finding better ways to combat EEE.
Now, Donna Wilcox, Maggie’s aunt, is doing everything she can to prevent any other family from having to go through what hers did.
She is disseminating information learned from the forum to local schools.
“This whole thing started with a letter that I wrote to the media last fall after Maggie died. It explained in graphic detail how she died and how frustrated we all were with the lack of response by the county,” she told Oswego County Today.
Shortly after that, she received a letter from Senator Patty Ritchie with her offer of help.
The senator in turn, organized the roundtable discussion with senators Kemp Hannon and Dave Valesky, as well as representatives from the local and state health departments, (then) Oswego County Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann and Legislator Kevin Gardner, Ag and Markets, DEC, Cornell University, New York Farm Bureau, Oswego County Farm Bureau and the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District.
From that discussion, Senator Ritchie came up with a 93-page recommendation on how the state and county will work towards better handling EEE in the future.
“I have remained in contact with both the senator’s office here in Oswego and with Legislator Gardner. The county is still working on the plan of handling EEE that was mandated be prepared by the legislature last fall,” Wilcox said. “I should note, the county’s plan was supposed to have been presented by the end of February, but has still not been provided. Kevin is keeping me in the loop on that and is pushing for the county to get that finalized.”
In late March, Senator Ritchie announced agreement with the Assembly to include $150,000 in the new state budget to help Oswego County’s battle with the EEE virus.
Senator Ritchie requested the state funds to help the county with the costs of spraying to kill disease-carrying mosquitoes, to provide tens of thousands of larvicide treatments for use by private landowners, and to create a low-cost horse vaccination program.
“One of the most important conclusions of my EEE Roundtable, which brought state and local health leaders into one room to discuss ways to better combat EEE, was that officials needed to ignore county lines – much as mosquitoes do – when drawing up plans of attack,” the senator said.
“I have been very pleased with Senator Ritchie’s help on getting the money put into this year’s budget,” Wilcox said. “I think this first step is a huge one and will definitely make a difference.”
The flyer Wilcox is distributing reads: “The time of year is now upon us… the time when we must protect our loved ones from the deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus. The Maggie Sue Glenister Wilcox Family is providing this information to encourage you to take the precautions necessary this spring, summer and fall…”
It goes on to list several steps residents can take to keep their families, and pets, safe.
The flyer is being distributed by Mexico schools right now, Wilcox said, adding she hopes that other school districts will follow suit.
Wilcox said, “The news stations and print media have helped us out immensely, as has Assemblyman Will Barclay. His office contacted me as well and said that they would do all they could to make sure the money stayed in the budget for Oswego County.”
“Mostly, though, David and Julie (Maggie’s parents) for having faith in me to take the ball and roll with it to make sure that Moo’s legacy lives on,” she added.
For more information, visit http://www.nysenate.gov/press-release/eee-ritchie-report-includes-recommendations-battling-deadly-virus