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June 11, 2012

Getting to the Root of the EEE Virus

TYPICAL MOSQUITO HABITAT IN TOAD HARBOR/BIG BAY SWAMP - The Oswego County Health Department began its full-scale mosquito surveillance program the week of May 28 in the Toad Harbor/Big Bay swamp area. The number of mosquito traps set over a larger area of the county has doubled as compared to last year.

OSWEGO - The Oswego County Health Department began its full-scale mosquito surveillance program the week of May 28 in the Toad Harbor/Big Bay swamp area. Health officials are still receiving test results from the New York State laboratory. All of which have indicated that the Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus was not present.

"The negative result for the EEE virus is normal this early in the season," said Inga Back acting public health director of the Oswego County Health Department. "The EEE virus builds over time through transmission cycles between wild birds and bird-biting mosquitoes, such as the 'Culiseta melanura' mosquito, which is the main carrier of the virus."

There are approximately 70 mosquito species recognized in New York State and 30 of them can be found here in Oswego County. Of these, twelve different types can carry mosquito-borne diseases including six or seven species that are capable of transmitting the EEE virus.

Each species lives and reproduces in its own unique habitat. The "Culiseta melanura" mosquito thrives best in hardwood swamp areas, which are abundant here in Oswego County.

"Hardwood swamps differ from the image that most people have when they think of swamp areas," said Evan Walsh, associate public health sanitarian for the Oswego County Health Department. "Usually, people picture standing water with lush vegetation and cattails. In contrast, hardwood swamps are a forested wetland with a mixture of streams, trees and standing water areas."

Walsh continued, "This environment, as seen in the Toad Harbor/Big Bay Swamp area, provides a perfect breeding ground for some types of mosquitoes, like the 'Culiseta melanura.'"

As part of an ongoing surveillance program, the Oswego County Health Department has doubled the number of mosquito trap sites over a larger area of the county as compared to last year.

Also this year, the health department will begin a new Mark-Release-Re-capture (MRR) Project which 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 other traps in our county and possibly those in neighboring counties.

Research, surveillance and testing are all important tools that provide county officials with valuable information about mosquito migration patterns and the presence of the EEE virus. This information is an important factor in the decision-making process for mosquito control activities such as aerial spraying.

Even so, the best defense against the EEE virus is to guard against mosquito bites. The Oswego County Health Department advises residents to take the following precautions:

  • Use insect repellent properly. Repellents containing DEET or picaridin are the most effective and should be used 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 surveillance and personal protection measures, 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.

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