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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 13, 2006
Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402
Stephanie Powell 222-4700 ext. 4418

DEM: SEPTEMBER 13 WEST NILE/EEE STATUS UPDATE

Four New Positive West Nile Samples in Three Communities Reinforce Confirmation that Virus is Well-Established Throughout State

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management announces that test results from four mosquito pools, or samples, from traps set in three communities during the week of September 3 have been confirmed positive for West Nile Virus.

They include two pools of mosquitoes from one trap located at the Boy Scout camp on Block Island, one pool from a trap set in the Knightsville area of Cranston, and one pool from a trap at the Carolina Management Area in Richmond where West Nile Virus was found in a mosquito sample earlier in the season. Three of the four new samples were a Culex species that prefers biting birds; the fourth one of the two Block Island samples was Coquillettidia perturbans, a species that is known to readily bite humans. Town officials, as well as Boy Scout officials have been notified, and scouting officials will encourage campers during the next few weeks to protect themselves by wearing long pants, using screening on tents, and using DEET.

An additional mosquito pool, from a trap set in Westerly during the week of September 3, tested 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. Two mosquito pools from Westerly were previously confirmed positive for Highlands J virus.

The new West Nile positive findings, in both rural and urban areas of the state, reinforce the confirmation that West Nile Virus is well established throughout the state, as, indeed, it is throughout the country. This year to date, in Rhode Island, 10 mosquito pools have tested positive for West Nile Virus. 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 that does not mean 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. The high number of mosquitoes testing positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Southern New England indicates that the Rhode Island area is this year 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.

Biting Activity Expected This Weekend

Although the past few evenings have been cool, with less biting activity, the weather forecast for the next several days, including the weekend, indicates that people can expect biting activity.

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. Routine test results from remaining pools of mosquitoes trapped during the week of September 3 will be included in next week's announcement.

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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