RICHMOND, R.I. (WPRI) — While the threat of mosquito-borne illnesses could be reduced with the first frost of the season expected Friday night, Rhode Island officials announced eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) has once again been detected in the state.
A mosquito sample collected last week in Richmond tested positive for the virus, according to a joint advisory from the R.I. Departments of Health and Environmental Management.
The mosquitoes were of the primarily bird-biting variety, officials said, but residents are urged to remain vigilant in protecting against being bitten.
The risk of mosquito-borne illnesses typically lasts until the first “hard” frost, which normally arrives in mid- to late October in Southern New England.
A hard frost is defined as three straight hours below freezing, which kills off adult mosquitoes.
Priscilla Matton, the superintendent for the Bristol County Mosquito Control Project, said the colder nights will help to decrease the mosquito population, but won’t eliminate the bugs completely just yet.
“Tonight is not the official end,” Matton said on Friday afternoon. “Some of the mosquitoes will definitely die tonight but the risk is not going to be over just quite yet.”
Matton said decreasing temperatures will cause the mosquitoes to go into hibernation, but a hard frost prompts them to either die or stay dormant.
It’s been a particularly active year for EEE, with a number of areas deemed high or critical risk. The disease has claimed the life of a West Warwick resident, and three people have died in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Both Massachusetts and Rhode Island have stopped widespread spraying for the season, and testing of mosquito samples will be wrapping up soon.
Matton said they’re seeing less EEE and West Nile Virus activity, but recommended that people still protect themselves against mosquito-borne illness.
“People still need to take precautions,” she said. “They should still be wearing long sleeves, long pants, use EPA-approved repellent, and try to avoid activities, if they can, between dusk and dawn.”
Because EEE activity typically comes in three-year cycles, Matton said she expects next year will have elevated EEE activity, too.