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News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade St., Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462

For Release:

August 24, 2000


Sally J. Spadaro 222-4700 ext. 2426
Alan Gettman 789-6280


One Mosquito Pool in Westerly Tests Positive for Highlands J, Which Does Not Affect Humans But May Indicate Presence of EEE in Area Birds

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management has announced that test results on 59 pools of mosquitoes collected from 27 traps set on August 15 are all negative for West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Results were received today from the University of Rhode Island.

One pool of mosquitoes trapped in Westerly tested positive for Highlands J virus. Highlands J virus, while not affecting humans, is an indication that Eastern Equine Encephalitis may also be present in area birds. It was previously found in two pools of bird-biting mosquitoes trapped on July 24 and August 7 in Westerly and in a sparrow collected in Westerly on August 8. In accordance with its EEE action plan, DEM is not recommending ground spraying as a result of these isolations of Highlands J.

The finding of one positive result for the Highland J virus is a reminder that all Rhode Islanders should continue to take personal protection steps to avoid mosquito bites, and to prevent mosquito breeding grounds around their homes. Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as EEE and West Nile Virus and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection.

In addition to the collection and testing of mosquitos, DEM has collected, and URI has tested, 54 birds for presence of the several viruses including EEE, Highland J and West Nile. All of these birds have tested negative except for the one crow previously reported as positive collected on August 8 in Warwick. Since that crow was reported as positive for West Nile Virus ten additional birds have been found negative for any virus.

Results are pending for 60 pools from 26 traps set on August 21, and should be available in about a week.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a very rare but serious and sometimes fatal viral disease contracted through the bite of an infected mosquito. In most years, the virus is limited to native bird populations and bird-biting mosquitoes, but rarely the virus can be transmitted to humans and domestic animals.

For questions about mosquitoes and personal protection, please call the Department of Health's Family Health information line weekdays at 1-800-942-7434 or call DEM's Mosquito Information Line weekdays at 789-8575. Information is also available on the HEALTH website at and on the DEM website at

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