---- — CONCORD — The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health Services, is encouraging residents and visitors to take precautions against mosquito bites this season to prevent West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis. Mosquitoes are already out and the most likely time for them to spread disease is now through September.
During the 2012 season, nine batches of mosquitoes tested positive for EEE and 41 batches tested positive for WNV. There were four veterinary cases of EEE (two horses and two emus), but none detected for WNV. There was also a human case of WNV, but no EEE cases.
During 2011, nine batches of mosquitoes tested positive for WNV and no samples tested positive for EEE. In 2010, one animal and one person tested positive for WNV and one animal tested positive for EEE.
“These numbers illustrate the unpredictability of these viruses,” said Dr. José Montero, director of public health at DHHS. “The weather plays a role as do environmental factors, so we just don’t know from year to year what will happen. Therefore, it is important that we remind residents that these diseases are preventable. It is essential that people follow precautionary steps, most importantly using an insect repellent, to avoid becoming infected by one of these diseases.”
EEE and WNV are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. EEE is a serious disease that carries a high mortality rate for those who contract the serious encephalitis form of the illness.
Symptoms may include high fever, severe headache, and a sore throat. A stiff neck is also a symptom of the severe form of the disease, which can lead to seizures and coma. Symptoms usually occur four to 10 days after someone is bitten.
For individuals who are bitten by a mosquito carrying WNV, the risk of contracting the infection is low and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, there are no symptoms or just mild, flu-like symptoms. At times, WNV can cause meningitis and can be a serious threat to seniors, young children, and those with compromised immune systems. If illness does occur, it typically happens within three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
Precautionary steps everyone should take to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes include: using an insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 against mosquitoes; wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors when mosquitoes are biting; make sure to remove standing water around your home where mosquitoes can breed; and make sure screens fit tightly.
For more information about WNV, EEE or Lyme disease, visit the dhhs.nh.gov, cdc.gov, or call the DHHS Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at 1-800-852-3345, Ext. 4496.