NEW SHOREHAM, R.I. (WPRI) — State officials announced Friday that mosquitoes trapped on Block Island earlier in the week tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis (EEE).
All other mosquito samples collected around the state were negative for both EEE and West Nile virus, according to the R.I. Departments of Health and Environmental Management.
On Monday, the health department reported that a West Warwick man had died after contracting EEE. It was the state’s first human case of the virus this year and its first death since 2007.
Since Sept. 6, EEE has been detected in two deer—one in Coventry and one in Richmond—as well as a horse in Westerly. Six mosquito pools have tested positive for EEE: three in Westerly, two in Central Falls and the most recent on Block Island. West Nile virus has been detected in Westerly and Tiverton.
With whitetail deer hunting season set to begin this weekend, officials urged hunters to protect themselves against being bitten by mosquitoes.
Mosquito Prevention Tips:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use EPA-approved bug spray with one of the following active ingredients: DEET (20-30% strength); picaridin, IR3535; and oil of lemon eucalyptus or paramenthane. Always read the label and follow all directions and precautions. Protect yourself by wearing bug spray!
- Do not consume any harvested deer that appears unhealthy. Any harvested animal that is believed to be unhealthy should be reported to DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement at 401-222-3070.
- Wear appropriate personal protective equipment when field dressing all game. At a minimum, this includes rubber or nitrile gloves and clothing that covers any part of the body that could be exposed to blood or other fluids.
- According to both the US Centers for Disease Control and USDA Wildlife Services, there is negligible risk to hunters for contracting EEE from field dressing, handling venison, or consuming venison if proper personal protective equipment is worn while dressing, and the venison is properly cooked. dressing, and the venison is properly cooked.
- There is little or no risk from exposure to the brain or spinal cord of a deer infected with EEE, however there is a high risk for rabies transmission from brain and spinal cord tissue exposure through an open wound or mucous membrane (eyes, nose, mouth). Therefore, anyone who is decapitating or removing the antler cap from a deer during the time when the virus may be present (2 weeks after a killing frost) should wear eye protection and avoid any contact with brain or spinal cord tissue, or spinal fluid, with their eyes or any other mucous membrane.
“Smart scheduling” for communities
Previous mosquito prevention recommendations from RIDOH still are in effect. On Monday of last week, RIDOH recommended to schools and municipal leaders that games, practices, and other outdoor activities scheduled to occur during early morning or dusk hours be rescheduled to earlier in the afternoon or relocated to an indoor venue.
The “smart scheduling” of events is intended to help minimize the risk of mosquito bites for players, coaches, and spectators. RIDOH recommends that smart scheduling stay in effect for the remainder of the mosquito season, which typically ends in mid-October (after the first hard frost).
In addition to following this smart scheduling recommendation, there are other measures that Rhode Islanders should take to help minimize mosquito breeding.
Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds
- Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. Just one cup of water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes; an unused tire containing water can produce thousands of mosquitoes.
- Clean your gutters and downspouts so that they can drain properly.
- Remove any water from unused swimming pools, wading pools, boats, planters, trash and recycling bins, tires, and anything else that collects water, and cover them.
- Remove or treat any shallow water that can accumulate on top of a pool cover. Larvicide treatments, such as Mosquito Dunks can be applied to kill immature mosquitoes. This environmentally-friendly product is available at many hardware and garden stores and on-line.
- Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week and rinse out birdbaths once a week.
Best practices for horse owners
Horses are particularly susceptible to WNV and EEE. Horse owners are advised to vaccinate their animals early in the season and practice the following:
- Remove or cover areas where standing water can collect.
- Avoid putting animals outside at dawn, dusk, or during the night when mosquitoes are most active.
- Insect-proof facilities where possible and use approved repellents frequently.
- Monitor animals for symptoms of fever and/or neurological signs (such as stumbling, moodiness, loss of appetite) and report all suspicious cases to a veterinarian immediately. If you are unsure if your horse is properly vaccinated, you should consult with your veterinarian.