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HEALTH Reminds Rhode Islanders to Protect Themselves from Mosquito Bites

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) reminds all Rhode Islanders to protect themselves and their families against serious illness caused by mosquito bites whenever outdoors during sunrise, sunset, or evenings, and in shady or wooded areas during the day, and to help keep mosquito numbers down near homes.

"As the summer begins, all Rhode Islanders can take steps now that will help protect themselves and others in their care from serious illnesses spread by infected mosquitoes," said Michael Fine, MD, Director of HEALTH. "Each of us can do a few simple things to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and biting, and to protect ourselves against West Nile Virus and EEE." Dr. Fine cautioned, "Anyone who becomes ill after a mosquito bite should see a doctor right away."

West Nile Virus is typically a mild illness in humans, characterized by flu-like symptoms. EEE is a rare, but serious disease characterized by fever, headache, drowsiness, convulsions and, in serious cases, coma.

As mosquitoes breed this time of year, the number of human-biting mosquitoes capable of transmitting diseases such as EEE and West Nile Virus also increases. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) works with the State Health Laboratories to conduct weekly tests of mosquito pools across the state to detect mosquito-borne viruses.

"As part of their normal seasonal routine, Rhode Islanders can protect themselves from exposure to West Nile Virus and EEE by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds around their homes," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "Throughout the summer, residents should remove any items in their yard that collect standing water and keep their gutters clear of leaves and debris so water drains properly. Mosquitoes breed in standing water and just one cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes."

The Department of Environmental Management distributes mosquito larvicide to Rhode Island communities each year in an effort to assist them with mosquito control. This year's distribution took place on June 3. Cities and towns place the larvicide in underground storm water catchment basins to limit the population of mosquitoes that can carry West Nile Virus.

Catch basins are considered prime breeding areas of mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus in both urban and suburban settings, and the use of larvicide is the best way for communities to reduce mosquito numbers and risk. Some communities will also be applying "mosquito dunks" to standing water bodies and small areas that are hard to treat. To best protect against mosquito bites, Rhode Islanders are advised to: - Be sure all open windows are screened. Repair holes in screens, and fix any loose screens. - Use mosquito netting on baby carriages or play yards when your baby is outdoors. - Remove standing water around your yard and house by emptying planters, wading pools, trash and recycling bins, and other places where water might accumulate. - Minimize outdoor activities during peak mosquito time (typically dusk to dawn). - Use mosquito repellent with DEET during outdoor activity, particularly during evening hours. - Dress in long pants, long-sleeve shirts, and socks during outdoor evening activities. Since 2011, Rhode Island has reported six cases of West Nile Virus in humans, and detected both West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in mosquito test pool samples collected during the summer and fall months. Other New England states have reported human cases of both EEE and West Nile Virus in recent years, including Connecticut, which reported one human case of EEE, death resulting, from the fall of 2013. # # #

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