PROVIDENCE – In light of the recent finding of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in mosquitoes trapped on July 10 in nearby Voluntown, Connecticut, the RI Department of Environmental Management and the RI Department of Health are urging residents to take precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites. Voluntown is located along the CT/RI border, adjacent to Arcadia Management Area in Exeter. Announced yesterday, the positive finding is the first confirmation of EEE in Connecticut this year and the earliest since that state's trapping program began in 1997. The positive EEE result was from a Culiseta species that feeds exclusively on birds.
In response to the positive finding in Voluntown, DEM is increasing the number of mosquito traps being set in the southwest portion of Rhode Island.
"With this first positive isolation of EEE just across the Rhode Island border comes a heightened alert that there are infected mosquitoes in the environment," noted Alan Gettman, PhD, DEM's mosquito abatement coordinator. "This is the time of the year for virus transmission, and the early finding means that there will be more weeks available for the virus to multiply in the environment. Therefore, all Rhode Islanders should take extra care to protect themselves, particularly when mosquito-biting activity is high."
Biting activity depends on several conditions. It generally is greatest from dusk to dawn. During the day it decreases in sunny areas at lower temperatures and increases in shady areas at higher temperatures. Biting activity also generally increases with high humidity and with low wind.
Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as West Nile Virus and EEE and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection. People should routinely use mosquito repellent and cover up when mosquito-biting activity is greatest. They should place mosquito netting over playpens and carriages outside, and be sure that screens are in good repair. Mosquito repellent should contain no more than 30 percent DEET, and it should not be used on infants.
Dr. Gettman said it is impossible to predict whether this positive finding in Connecticut will increase the possibility of mosquito-borne disease in Rhode Island, which is prevalent later in the season because the disease gets amplified in the environment as the season progresses. So far this year, all mosquitoes tested at the Health Laboratory have been negative for EEE and West Nile Virus.
Mosquitoes in Rhode Island are trapped every week statewide by DEM staff and tested at the RI Department of Health laboratory. DEM will normally report mosquito test results once a week on a routine basis, with additional reports as necessary. Routine test results from pools of mosquitoes trapped during the week of July 8 will be included in next week's announcement.
For online information about mosquito-borne diseases, go to DEM's website, www. dem.ri.gov, and click on "Public Health Updates," or go to the HEALTH website, www.health.ri.gov, and click on "E" (Eastern Equine Encephalitis) or "W" (West Nile Virus) under "Health Topics."