County Tests For Mosquito Viruses

While mosquitoes and the itchy bumps they deliver are a common nuisance at the majority of summer’s outdoor events, local officials want to remind the public to keep repellent on-hand and to cover up.

Ruth Lundin, Jamestown Audubon Society president, said she wants to educate the community and stressed the importance of preventing the insect bites.

“This whole area is a habitat for the types of mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, also known as EEE,” Lundin said, adding that the Department of Health has begun testing habitats countywide for both viruses.

One case of West Nile has been discovered in New York state so far this year, while one case of EEE caused the death of a horse in Chautauqua County last year.

Still, Lundin stressed the importance of staying protected.

“We don’t stay inside just because the sunlight is strong, but just as we have learned we should protect our skin, we need to think about the fact that whenever we leave home we should put on repellent,” Lundin said.

Last year, mosquitoes taken from the Audubon tested positive for both West Nile and EEE.

Lundin said signs have been posted on all trails at the Audubon warning visitors that mosquito bites can carry disease.

If necessary, a spray will be used to eliminate mosquito larva on site.

“We have budgeted for spraying as we did last year if it becomes necessary,” Lundin said. “The spray also has a limited effectiveness. The best defense is to wear long sleeves and insect repellent.”

Last week, Kevin Watkins, Cattaraugus County public health director, told The Post-Journal that the county would not be using a spray to eliminate mosquito populations seeing as how the situation is not a public hazzard.

So far this year, neither of the viruses have been detected in Chautauqua County, according to Mark Stow, director of Environmental Health Services.

Additionally, he said neither virus has ever caused a human fatality in Chautauqua County.

“Technically, West Nile manifests itself in August,” Stow said. “It’s a big mosquito year because of all the rainfall we’ve had, but it’s a bit premature for us to start seeing mosquito pools come back positive.”

Stow said he and his team test sites all over the county to identify any potential viruses.

In terms of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, he said there have not been any documented cases in humans in Chautauqua County, and farmers should keep their horses vaccinated.

“The difficulty with EEE is that it’s kind of like West Nile on steroids,” he said, adding that it can manifest itself in humans.

Since 1973, there have been five reported human cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in New York state, all of which were fatal, according to the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people infected with West Nile show no symptoms. Those who do show symptoms similar to a cold or flu. Less than 1 percent of infected people will die from West Nile.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis, however, has a 33 percent mortality rate according to the CDC. Symptoms include headache, fever, chills and vomiting, later progressing into possible seizures or coma.

“It’s a good idea to protect yourself from mosquito bites to protect yourself from disease transmission,” Stow concluded.