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August 5, 2013

Signs remind outdoor lovers to take precautions against mosquitoes

SIGN OF THE TIMES - Signs are being installed in Central New York this summer to remind people to protect themselves against diseases that can be carried by mosquitoes. State funding was sponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie. From left are Senator Ritchie, Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang, and Oswego County Senior Public Health Educator Diane Oldenburg.

OSWEGO - More than 80 signs are being installed this summer in local parks, campgrounds, golf courses and other places where people gather for outdoor recreation to remind people of the dangers of diseases carried by mosquitoes in the county.

The signs were purchased through state funds sponsored by State Senator Patty Ritchie and are part of the "Fight the Bite" public education program to help raise awareness about West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). In all, 276 signs were provided to public health departments in Oswego, Onondaga, Oneida and Madison counties.

"It's so important, especially in the summer months, that people are made aware of just how critical it is to protect themselves from mosquitoes, and the diseases they carry," said State Senator Patty Ritchie.

"I am pleased that this year, for the second year in a row, I was able to secure special funding to help fight back against diseases such as EEE through initiatives-like these recently installed signs-that increase public awareness."

The reflective signs remind people that mosquitoes can carry diseases such as Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus. To protect against mosquito bites, the signs direct people to use insect repellents with DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus according to label instructions; dress in long sleeves and pants and wear socks and shoes when weather permits; and take precautions when outdoors between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang said the health department mosquito surveillance program started in May and will continue into September. As of early August, there has been no evidence of the EEE virus detected in Oswego County. However, West Nile virus was detected in mosquitoes collected near Central Square, and in two locations in Onondaga County.

"As part of our long-term surveillance program, our staff collects mosquito specimens from a number of trap sites around the county," said Huang. "Most traps are set in and near hardwood swamp areas because they are a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, especially the Culiseta melanura mosquito, which is the main carrier of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). Once captured, mosquitoes are identified and sorted by species, gender, and whether or not they have ingested blood. Every week the collection (or pool) of mosquitoes is sent to the NYS Department of Health laboratory in Albany for testing."

People can reduce mosquito populations around their homes and yards by eliminating or minimizing standing water. Empty or drain pails, flower pots, wheelbarrows, wading pools and pool covers. Drill holes in recycling containers, clear roof gutters, dispose of old tires, and change the water in bird baths and horse troughs twice a week to discourage mosquito breeding. Also, repair or replace broken or torn window and door screens to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.

For more information about illnesses caused by 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 health.state.ny.us.


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