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Mosquitoes Carrying EEE Found Here Much Earlier Than Usual

<br />The Culiseta Melanura mosquito, the type found this week with the EEE virus in Toad Harbor Swamp.  This species bites birds, but does not bite humans.  Image courtesy the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Click the image to enlarge it.
The Culiseta Melanura mosquito, the type found this week with the EEE virus in Toad Harbor Swamp. This species bites birds, but does not bite humans. Image courtesy the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Click the image to enlarge it.

Oswego County’s discovery of a mosquito carrying an Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus makes the county and the state the first place in the country to discover the potentially deadly illness this year.  It’s also one of the earliest annual discoveries for the county on record.

Lucky us.

The virus was found in Toad Harbor Swamp, in a species of mosquito that does not bite humans, according to Evan Walsh of the Oswego County Health Department’s Environmental Division. The species tends to bite birds. Other species of mosquitoes that bite both birds and humans get the virus from the birds and give it to humans.

The early finding is a hint, but not a guarantee, that EEE-carrying mosquitoes will be more plentiful than normal. So far, Walsh said, the numbers of mosquitoes that bite humans in mid-summer are not larger than normal. He said that one type of mosquito that flourishes in the Spring has been seen in very large numbers because a milder-than-normal winter did not kill off their eggs. But the kinds of mosquitoes more common in mid-summer have been kept down by cooler and wetter weather. “They need old water and warmer temperatures,” Walsh said.

And if summer remains cool and damp, “It would make for a lousy summer but from a public health standpoint, it would be good for us,” he said.

“The human biters are not at a point where we’re concerned yet,” Walsh said. Even so, he said this week’s alert is a signal to people to begin taking the usual precautions against mosquitoes.

They include:

  • Wearing long pants, tucked into boots or socks;
  • Wearing a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for a long time, particularly at dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are most active;
  • Using mosquito repellent, but only according to directions;
  • Emptying any standing water on your property, in pails, flower pots, pool coveers or other places;
  • Getting rid of old tires;
  • Patching or replacing torn screens.