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EEE virus detected in Vermont mosquitoes

Image of Culiseta melanura mosquito, photo taken by Jason Williams, reproduced by permission from the Virginia Mosquito Control Association.

Image of Culiseta melanura mosquito, photo taken by Jason Williams, reproduced by permission from the Virginia Mosquito Control Association.

— There are few guarantees in life, but you can be sure that mosquitoes will attend all July 4 festivities in Vermont. Anybody celebrating at outdoor parades, cookouts and fireworks can supply a delicious meal to a hungry mosquito.

The tiny pests are mostly an annoyance, but certain types of mosquitoes can spread viral diseases. During the past few summers, mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEE) and West Nile virus (WNV) have been found in Vermont.

EEE virus has already been detected this year in one batch of mosquitoes collected in the town of Grand Isle. The mosquitoes were trapped on June 17 making this the earliest detection of the virus in the Northeast. This is also the first time EEE virus has been detected in Grand Isle County, although two horses from Franklin County and a batch of mosquitoes in Milton tested positive for the virus in 2013. So far this year, more than 300 batches of mosquitoes have been tested with just one positive result.

“This reminds us that although the mosquitoes have been biting for weeks, the risk for getting sick starts to increase right about now,” said Erica Berl, an infectious disease epidemiologist.

Precautions

Both WNV and EEE virus have been detected in many of Vermont’s counties. The Health Department encourages Vermonters to take simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites:

Weather permitting, wear long sleeves and pants and avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn – when mosquitoes are most active.

Reduce mosquito breeding habitats by getting rid of standing water. Drain areas where water can pool: rain gutters, wading pools and any other water-holding containers such as old tires.

If you are outside when mosquitoes are biting, use an effective insect repellent. Choose repellents that have an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration number on the label. This indicates that the product has been evaluated for safety and effectiveness. Repellents that contain no more than 30 percent DEET are safe and effective for children and adults. When using insect repellent, always follow the directions on the label. EPA has a tool that will help you search for a repellent that is right for you: http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/arbovirus/documents/how_choose_insect_repellent.pdf

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