OSWEGO – The Oswego County Health Department launched its annual county-wide mosquito surveillance program in May. So far, test results from the New York State laboratory have all indicated that the Eastern equine encephalitis virus is not present in Oswego County.
“Normally, the virus first appears in the Toad Harbor/Big Bay swamp area each summer,” said Inga Back, acting public health director of the Oswego County Health Department. “However, last year, it appeared in a few places around Oswego County at the same time.”
The Oswego County Health Department has doubled the number of its mosquito trap sites over a greater area of the county this year. Staff collects mosquito samples from a number of trap sites around the county to test for the EEE virus and to track through the Mark-Release-Recapture (MRR) project.
Back added, “We hope this research will provide us more precise information about mosquito migration patterns. If it is successful, this information will help us in our decision-making about the timing of mosquito control activities, such as aerial spraying.”
Aerial spraying is a control measure aimed at decreasing the risk of human infection from the EEE virus by reducing targeted mosquito populations. For spraying to be effective, foliage needs to be relatively dry and the weather should be rain-free for at least 30 minutes after the pesticide is applied. Winds need to be less than 10 miles per hour.
“The decision to conduct aerial spraying is a complicated process that involves many factors. It is not based on cost, but on weather conditions and scientific data collected from state and county health departments’ surveillance programs. We work in close consultation with New York State Department of Health to obtain a declaration of imminent public health threat that will allow us to conduct aerial spraying,” said Back.
Once the county makes the decision to spray and the state gives its permission with the declaration of an imminent public health threat, the schedule and areas to be sprayed are announced.
Residents can get this information from the news media and on the county Web site as soon as the exact boundaries are decided upon.
The county health department contracts with Duflo Spray-Chemical Inc. of Lowville to apply pesticide in the targeted areas.
The computerized spraying program is a very precise process. Spraying does not take place over open water or identified agricultural sites such as bee farms and certified organic farms.
Oswego County Associate Public Health Sanitarian Evan Walsh emphasizes that aerial spraying is only a partial and temporary measure in controlling the population of mosquitoes which could carry EEE and warns residents not to become complacent when aerial spraying takes place.
“Aerial spraying will reduce the numbers of mosquitoes testing positive for EEE for a short period of time,” he said. “Spraying will not erase the virus from the environment, and it will not eliminate the need for people to protect themselves with preventive measures. Evidence from past years shows that humans have contracted the EEE virus after spraying had taken place in Central New York.”
The best defense against the EEE virus is to guard against mosquito bites.
The Oswego County Health Department reminds residents to protect themselves and their families by taking the following precautions:
Use insect repellent properly. Repellents containing DEET or picaridin are the most effective, but should be used with caution. Read the product label and use according to package instructions.
Whenever possible, limit outdoor activities in areas where mosquitoes are most active and between dusk and dawn which is the peak mosquito-biting time.
As weather permits, wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, shoes and socks.
In addition, people can follow these protection measures to minimize mosquito populations in and around their homes and properties:
Install or repair all door and window screens.
Reduce or eliminate all standing water from old tires, pails, recycling containers, flower pots, wheelbarrows, wading pools and pool covers.
Change the water in birdbaths and horse troughs twice a week.
The EEE virus is one of the most serious mosquito-borne diseases. It rarely affects humans; however, when it does, the virus can cause a serious infection or even death.
For more information about the EEE virus, mosquito spraying and 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