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As Summer Winds Down, New England Still at Risk for Viruses Carried by Mosquitoes

PROVIDENCE - The New England State Health Officers want to alert the region to the increased risk for West Nile virus infection and Eastern Equine Encephalitis despite the end of much summer activity. These viral infections are spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes and often reach their peak at this time of year, just when people may be lowering their guard against mosquito bites.

The United States is currently experiencing a widespread outbreak of West Nile virus, and the Northeast is no exception. In the United States, West Nile has been detected in humans, animals, or mosquitoes in all 48 of the continental states. As of August 28, 2012, 1,590 cases of West Nile have been reported nationwide, with 65 deaths. More cases are expected to occur. Eastern Equine Encephalitis is also of major concern in the Northeast. It is the most severe mosquito-spread illness in the United States.

Symptoms of West Nile virus include headache, high fever, confusion, tremors, convulsions and rarely, paralysis. West Nile virus infection can also be fatal. Symptoms of Eastern Equine Encephalitis range from mild flu-like illness to inflammation of the brain, coma and death.

All of the states in the Northeast are seeing increased mosquito-borne virus activity this summer. All six New England states have detected West Nile virus in mosquitoes, and Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have reported human cases. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont have all detected EEE in mosquitoes, with Massachusetts and Vermont reporting human cases. For many of the New England states, this activity has been earlier and more intense than in previous years. All states expect to see more viral activity as we move into early fall.

The State Health Officers of the Northeast remind residents and visitors that the threat of arboviral illness, including West Nile virus, remains high, and everyone should take steps to prevent mosquito bites. Mosquitoes will remain active until the first frost, so the public must remain vigilant.

State Health Officers recommend the following measures to protect against West Nile virus infection and other mosquito-borne illnesses:

Avoid or limit time outdoors at dawn and dusk when many species of mosquitoes are most active Use an EPA approved repellent when outdoors, especially around dawn and dusk always follow the instructions on the product's label Wear protective clothing when outdoors, including long-sleeved shirts, pants, and socks Make sure screens on windows and doors are intact to keep mosquitoes out of the home Reduce standing water around the house (collecting in containers, tires, etc.) to decrease the numbers of mosquitoes breeding around your home

For more information about preventing these viral infections and what is happening in your state, contact your state health department or visit the state's Web site:

Connecticut - 860-509-7270; www.ct.gov/mosquito Maine- 800-821-5821; http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/vector-borne/index.shtml Massachusetts - 617-983-6800; www.mass.gov/dph/wnv New Hampshire - 603-271-4496; http://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/arboviral/index.htm Rhode Island 401-222-5960; www.health.ri.gov/ Vermont 802-863-7281; http://healthvermont.gov

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Related links

Department or agency: Department of Health

Online: http://www.health.ri.gov

Release date: 09-10-2012

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