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DEM's WNV/EEE Page

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

For Release: September 5, 2006
Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402
Stephanie Powell 222-4700 ext. 4418

DEM: SEPTEMBER 5 WEST NILE/EEE STATUS UPDATE
No New Positive EEE/WNV Test Results, but State Remains at Increased Risk of Disease; DEM Director Asks Municipalities to Consider 'Smart Scheduling' of Outdoor Events

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management announces that test results from the remaining 121 mosquito pools, or samples, from 442 traps set statewide during the week of August 21 have been confirmed negative for both West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

One mosquito pool from that week was previously confirmed positive for West Nile Virus, and one was previously confirmed positive for Highlands J virus, a bird disease that doesn't affect humans, but which is an indicator that environmental conditions are appropriate for the transmission of other mosquito-borne viruses. In addition, two pools of mosquitoes trapped during the week of August 29 in Westerly were today confirmed positive for the Highlands J virus.

Rhode Island at Higher Than Normal Risk for EEE

The increasing numbers of mosquito pools, or samples, testing positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Southern New England indicates that the Rhode Island area is now clearly at a higher than normal risk for EEE. In Massachusetts, there has been one death from EEE this year, and two other persons have contracted the often-deadly disease. Numerous mosquito pools have tested positive for EEE in that state; one pool of exclusively bird-biting mosquitoes from nearby Stonington, CT was recently found to be EEE-positive. This year to date, in Rhode Island, six mosquito pools have tested positive for West Nile Virus, which is well-established throughout the state, and, indeed, the country. There has been one death in Connecticut this year from West Nile Virus. Although no mosquito pools in Rhode Island have yet tested positive for EEE this year, state officials warn, it does not mean that the virus is not in the environment here. In past years in Rhode Island, EEE has been found primarily in South County and the Tiverton/Little Compton area; however, it has also been found in more northern communities.

Because of the increased risk now that schools are back in session and fall sports practices and games are taking place, DEM Director W. Michael Sullivan reiterated his call for municipal leaders to consider 'smart scheduling' of events, so that residents, particularly children and the elderly, are at less risk of being bitten. Sullivan also is asking local officials to pass ordinances making it easier for them to cite property owners for allowing conditions that create mosquito nuisance, and said that state officials will draft a model ordinance for municipal use.

Meanwhile, because of the heightened health risk, all Rhode Islanders should take extra care to protect themselves, particularly when mosquito-biting activity is high. Biting activity depends on several conditions. It generally is greatest from dusk to dawn. During the day it decreases in sunny areas at lower temperatures and increases in shady areas at higher temperatures. Biting activity also generally increases with high humidity and with low wind.

Personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as West Nile Virus and EEE and is by far the most effective way of avoiding infection. People should routinely use mosquito repellent and cover up when mosquito-biting activity is greatest. They should place mosquito netting over playpens and carriages outside, and be sure that screens are in good repair. Mosquito repellent should contain no more than 30 percent DEET, and it should not be used on infants.

Mosquitoes are trapped every week statewide by DEM staff and tested at the HEALTH laboratory. DEM will normally report mosquito test results once a week on a routine basis, generally by Wednesday, with additional reports as necessary. Positive mosquito test results will generally trigger additional trapping to assess risk.

For online information about mosquito-borne diseases, go to DEM's website, www.state.dem.ri.gov, and click on "Public Health Updates", or go to the HEALTH website, www.health.ri.gov, and click on "E" (Eastern Equine Encephalitis) or "W" ((West Nile Virus)) under "Health Topics".

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