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June 4, 2012

Oswego County Begins 2012 Mosquito Surveillance Program

MOSQUITO SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM BEGINS - The Oswego County Health Department began training for its 2012 full-scale mosquito surveillance program on May 21. Dr. John Howard with the New York State Department of Health explains the characteristics of mosquitoes at the health department's field station in West Monroe.

OSWEGO - The Oswego County Health Department launched its full-scale mosquito surveillance program for the 2012 season with training sessions on Monday, May 21 at Toad Harbor Swamp.

Toad Harbor and Big Bay swamp areas are usually the first places the Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus appears each summer; however, last year it appeared in a few places around Oswego County at the same time.

"We have doubled the number of mosquito trap sites over a greater area of the county due to the high level of EEE activity over the last few years," said Dr. Dennis Norfleet, public health director of the Oswego County Health Department. "In addition, the state's laboratory will allow a greater number of mosquito samples to be sent in for testing."

Representatives from the New York State Department of Health and Oneida and Madison counties joined Oswego County staff in the training sessions. Participants learned about how mosquitoes are trapped, tracked and tested for diseases such as EEE and West Nile Virus (WNV).

"We collect samples of mosquitoes from a number of trap sites around the county," said Evan Walsh, associate public health sanitarian for the Oswego County Health Department. "Most traps are set in or near hardwood swamp areas because they are a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, especially the 'Culiseta melanura' mosquito which is the main carrier of EEE."

Once captured, mosquitoes are identified and grouped by species, gender, and whether or not they have ingested blood. The collection or "pool" of mosquitoes is then sent to the NYS Department of Health laboratory near Albany for testing that same week. The results are usually received one week later.

This year, Oswego County will add a new component to its long-term surveillance program. The Mark-Release-Recapture (MRR) Project involves trapping adult mosquitoes from the Toad Harbor/Big Bay swamp area and marking them with a fluorescent powder. They are then released with the intent of re-capturing them later from traps in our county as well as those in neighboring counties. Health officials from those nearby counties will participate in the re-capturing and identification process.

Dr. Norfleet added, "The MRR project is important because it will give us more precise information about when, where and how quickly mosquitoes travel as they migrate from the Toad Harbor/Big Bay swamp area. Understanding this information about mosquito movement will help us in our decision-making about the timing of mosquito control activities, such as aerial spraying."

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.

The best defense against the 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.

For more information about 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

THE TRAPS ARE SET - Staff from the Oswego County Health Department recently placed mosquito collection boxes in various areas around the county. Mosquitoes in some of the collection boxes will be marked for further research in the Mark-Release-Recapture Project. Others will be collected, sorted and sent to the state laboratory for testing for EEE and WNV.

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