State Approves EEE Spraying, Citing “Imminent Threat” to Health

Oswego County Prepares for Aerial Spraying

OSWEGO –  New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah issued a declaration of imminent threat to public health in Oswego County Wednesday evening, clearing the way for the Oswego County Health Department to prepare for aerial spraying of mosquitoes which could carry the Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus.

Oswego County Public Health Director Dr. Dennis Norfleet said this afternoon the county health department received the permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to spray the Toad Harbor / Big Bay Swamp area. The county is working with the state Health Department and an aerial spraying contractor to finalize spraying plans.

“The primary focus of the spraying will be areas where the virus has been most intense, based on historical evidence. Mosquitoes can fly as far as nine miles. It’s important that we target the habitat where the virus has been centered,” said Dr. Norfleet.

The first area to be targeted will be the Toad Harbor – Central Square area. The county will also spray the Lot 10 Road area in Palermo and north into the Town of Mexico.

“The schedule and areas to be sprayed will be announced through the news media and on the county Web site as soon as the exact boundaries are decided upon,” he said. “It will depend on weather conditions and data collected from the state and county health departments’ surveillance programs. The computerized spraying program is a very precise process and some of the areas being considered have not been mapped before for aerial spraying. Spraying will not take place over open water or identified agricultural sites such as bee farms and certified organic farms.”

Today, the health department learned of the death of a dog from EEE in the Town of  Mexico. “EEE is rare in dogs and only affects dogs under six months old. There is no vaccine for dogs like there is for horses. This additional death of a dog further indicates the presence of the virus in mosquitoes and the need for everyone to exercise personal precautions,” said Dr. Norfleet.

Dr. Norfleet said the health department also received notification that a second horse has died from EEE, which indicates the virus is also present in the Town of Mexico. A child in New Haven died from EEE Aug. 14 and a horse in Scriba died of the virus earlier this month. Yesterday, the surveillance program also showed evidence of West Nile virus near the village of Central Square and in the Toad Harbor / Big Bay Swamp area.

As of Aug. 18, 16 pools of mosquitoes collected through the Oswego County Health Department’s surveillance program have tested positive for the virus. The county is continuing to expand their surveillance program and the New York State Department of Health is sending in some of their staff to directly help with this program.

Dr. Norfleet continues to emphasize that aerial spraying is a partial and temporary measure in controlling the population of mosquitoes which could carry EEE.

“Aerial spraying will reduce the numbers of mosquitoes testing positive for EEE for about one week,” 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 previous years shows that humans contracted the EEE virus after spraying had taken place in Central New York.”

The best way for people to protect themselves from EEE is to protect against mosquito bites.

Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and clothing. Always follow label directions.
Wear shoes, socks, long pants with bottoms tucked into boots or socks, and a long sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods of time and at dawn and dusk.
Repair or replace broken screens in doors and windows.
Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from containers. Keep children’s wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren’t being used.
For more information about EEE and other viruses transmitted by mosquitoes, call the Oswego County Health Department at 315-349-3564 or 1-800-596-3200, ext.3564 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. or visit the New York State Department of Health Web site at or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site at


The New York State Health Department has given Oswego County approval to spray areas of the county to kill mosquitoes to try to prevent another human case of Eastern equine encephalitis.

In a letter to the county from the state Health Commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah writes, “EEE virus is present in high levels in Oswego County.”

“I declare an imminent threat to public health for Eastern equine encephalitis virus based on current activity exists in Oswego County,” he adds.

The letter gives the county authority to spray insecticide over areas of the county where mosquitoes have been found to carry EEE.

A county official says the first area to be sprayed will be the Toad Harbor Swamp area near Central Square along Oneida Lake.

Four year old Maggie Wilcox of New Haven died Sunday from the virus, which attacked her brain.

Five people have died in New York State from EEE in the last 40 years, but there has been one death in each of the last three years.  One of the others was in Oswego County while the second was in Onondaga County.

The county has not yet said which areas will be sprayed or when the spraying will occur, but a news release revealing the details is expected this afternoon.