PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Health officials have confirmed two additional human cases of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in Rhode Island.
According to the R.I. Department of Health, one is a child younger than 10 years old from Coventry and the other is a person in their 50s from Charlestown. Both are now recovering after being released from the hospital.
The state’s first human case of EEE this year was a West Warwick man who died early last week. Health department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said it’s an extremely active season for the virus.
“Normally, human EEE cases are on the rare side,” he said. “We usually see between seven and 10 EEE cases diagnosed in the U.S. for a year, so we’ve had three just in Rhode Island.”
Health officials believe all three people contracted the virus before areas of Rhode Island deemed a critical risk for EEE were sprayed with pesticide.
While spraying can reduce the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses like EEE and West Nile virus, it doesn’t eliminate the threat completely, so officials continue to urge residents to protect themselves against being bitten.
Fact Sheet: Mosquito-Borne Illness Signs & Prevention » | Special Presentation: EEE Concerns »
The threat of mosquito-borne viruses typically lasts until the first hard frost, which is usually in mid- to late October in Southern New England.
“Personal mosquito-prevention measures remain everyone’s first defense against EEE,” RIDOH Deputy Director Ana Novais said. “If possible, people should limit their time outdoors at sunrise and sunset. If you are going to be out, long sleeves and pants are very important, as is bug spray.”
Spraying was conducted in the following zones deemed critical risk for EEE, according to the health department:
- An area of northern RI (parts of Burrillville, North Smithfield and Woonsocket)
- Parts of Charlestown, Hopkinton and Westerly
- All of West Warwick and parts of Coventry, Cranston, East Greenwich, Scituate, Warwick and West Greenwich
- All of Central Falls, North Providence and Pawtucket and parts of Providence, East Providence, Cumberland, Lincoln and Smithfield
R.I. Department of Environmental Management spokesperson Mike Healey said his agency is communicating with the state’s legislative leaders and budget isn’t an issue. He estimates the DEM has spent approximately $300,000 so far this year on aerial spraying treatments.
“We’re doing everything that we can possibly do to protect public health,” Healey said.
EEE has been detected in six mosquito samples so far this season: three from Westerly, two from Central Falls, and one from Block Island.
In addition, a horse from Westerly has tested positive for EEE this year while three deer from Coventry, Richmond and Exeter have also been diagnosed. Neither animal can transmit the virus directly to humans but they’re an indication that infected mosquitoes are in the area.