PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With the risk of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) increasing steadily this mosquito season, the Rhode Island Departments of Environmental Management and Health are gearing up for a second round of targeted aerial spraying.
The spraying should begin the night of Sept. 23, weather permitting, according to the DEM.
The DEM said two areas will be sprayed, including all of West Warwick and parts of surrounding communities (Parts of Cranston, Warwick, Scituate, Coventry, East Greenwich and West Greenwich) and one in the southwest part of the state (Parts of Westerly, Hopkinton, Richmond, South Kingstown and Charlestown).
“Any place where there is the disease, that is where we treat,” DEM spokesperson Mike Healey said. “We adjust our response based on where the disease has spread.”
Despite the spraying, all four of the areas that were sprayed earlier this month are still considered “critical risk” areas for EEE.
Since the first round of aerial spraying, there have been two more Rhode Islanders who have contracted EEE, including a 6-year-old Coventry girl. Both have been discharged from the hospital and are recovering, according to the DEM. The first to contract the virus in Rhode Island, a West Warwick man in his 50s, died last week.
The DEM said EEE has also been detected in seven mosquito samples so far this season: three from Westerly, two from Central Falls, one from Block Island and one from western Coventry.
One horse from Westerly has tested positive for EEE this year, as have three deer (one in Coventry, one in Richmond and one in Exeter). Though deer and horses cannot transmit EEE to humans, they are an indication that infected mosquitoes are in the area.
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This season has seen a significant increase in human cases of EEE in southeastern New England. So far this year, Massachusetts has reported nine human cases of EEE and has been routinely spraying areas at critical, high and moderate risk. Of the eight cases, a Fairhaven woman died after contracting the virus and a 5-year-old girl from Sudbury was also diagnosed.
Connecticut also recently announced its first human case of EEE this season.
The threat of mosquito-borne illness typically lasts until the first hard frost, which is usually in mid-to-late October in Southern New England. The DEM is urging everyone to continue to take precautions against mosquitoes until then.
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.
Torry Gaucher contributed to this report.