Oswego County News Release
Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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July 11, 2007

EEE Found in Bird-Biting Mosquitoes

Kathleen Smith, Oswego County Public Health Director, announced today that the Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus was found in a pool of mosquitoes collected near the Toad Harbor Swamp in West Monroe. The virus has only been found in the type of mosquitoes that bite birds, not in mosquitoes that feed on humans or mammals, said Smith.

The mosquitoes were collected June 25 near the large swamp on the north shore of Oneida Lake and sent to the state health department's Wadsworth Center Laboratories near Albany for testing. The Toad Harbor site is a longtime surveillance location known to periodically harbor the virus.

Smith said that the surveillance programs conducted by Oswego County and the State Department of Health indicate the population of bird-biting mosquitoes is extremely low, due to dry weather.

EEE is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. In rare cases, EEE causes inflammation and swelling of the brain. Symptoms include sudden high fever, muscle pains, and a headache of increasing severity. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention.

"There are about 60 different species of mosquitoes in New York State, but only a few species are capable of transmitting the EEE virus," said Smith. "Typically, the EEE virus becomes established in bird-biting species before it crosses over into the human-biting species of mosquitoes. We've also been testing species that bite people, but the virus has only been found in mosquitoes that feed on birds."

The dry weather, combined with the low number of bird-biting mosquitoes, indicate that aerial spraying is not warranted at this time.

"We will continue our monitoring program with the state health department. If conditions change, we could possibly consider spraying at some point in the future," said Smith.

People can reduce their chances of being exposed to EEE and other viruses carried by mosquitoes by using insect repellents, wearing protective clothing, and by reducing the mosquito population around their homes.

To help reduce the risk of mosquito bites, Smith advises people to:

  • Wear shoes, long pants with bottoms tucked into boots or socks, and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods of time, or when many mosquitoes are most active (between dusk and dawn).
  • Use mosquito repellent according to label directions when outdoors for long periods of time and when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Empty pails, swimming pool covers, flower pots and other containers of standing water around the home and yard.
  • Remove all discarded tires from around your property.
  • Replace or repair broken screens.

Insect repellents that contain DEET are effective but should be used with caution.

"DEET comes in many different concentrations, with percentages ranging from as low as five percent to as high as 100 percent," said Smith. "Make sure to read the label for safety instructions and always follow the directions on the package."

For more information about EEE and other viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes, call the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3564 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3564, or visit the New York State Department of Health Web site at www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/communicable/eastern_equine_encephalitis/fact_sheet.htm

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