2006-05-11 / News

Protect your family from mosquito bites

With West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis so firmly established throughout Rhode Island, the state Department of Environmental Management and the state Department of Health are reminding residents that personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquito-borne diseases.

Residents should routinely protect themselves from exposure to West Nile virus and EEE by avoiding mosquito bites and eliminating mosquito breeding grounds. Residents are urged to

rid their yards of anything that holds standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Just one cup can produce thousands of mosquitoes.

Personal protection and larviciding are cornerstones of the state's mosquito response program. Aerial or ground spraying is only recommended when the public is at substantial risk of contact by infected mosquitoes. The DEM will distribute the larvicide Altosid to municipalities for treating all public area catch basins.

Because horses are susceptible to West Nile virus and EEE, Rhode Island horse owners should vaccinate their horses early in the season and take measures to control and prevent mosquito exposure.

The viruses

EEE, a cyclical virus, while not nearly as common as West Nile virus, has a higher fatality rate. The viral disease is contracted through the bite of an infected mosquito. In most years, the virus is limited to native bird populations and bird-biting mosquitoes, but occasionally the virus can be transmitted to humans and domestic animals. EEE virus affects the brain with symptoms that appear five to 15 days after being bitten. Symptoms may include high fever, headache, stiff neck, and decreased consciousness. Up to 50 percent of cases may result in fatality. People with symptoms suggesting EEE should contact their physician immediately.

West Nile virus is also a mosquito transmitted viral disease that causes encephalitis. However, mortality rates are much lower than those of EEE. Most people bitten by WNVinfected mosquitoes do not get sick. The elderly and people with weakened immune systems, however, are more prone to the infection. Symptoms begin three to 15 days after the bite from an infected mosquito. Symptoms may include fever, headache, nausea, rash, stiff neck, muscle weakness, and disorientation.

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