By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
---- — Eastern equine encephalitis was found in a batch of mosquitoes trapped in Exeter, which came as no surprise to public health officials and mosquito control experts.
Those test results released yesterday followed six mosquito batches testing positive for West Nile virus. Mosquito batches that were infected with West Nile were trapped in Pelham, Sandown, Nashua and Stratham.
“This is the first identified positive for Eastern equine encephalitis in New Hampshire this season, but, unfortunately, it is not unexpected,” said Dr. José Montero, the state’s public health director. “These two viruses tend to appear in waves and some years there are more positives than others, so we don’t really know what the rest of the season has in store. This is all the more reason why people should take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes.”
In 2012, there were 13 positive tests for EEE, including nine mosquito batches and four animals. There hasn’t been a human case of EEE in New Hampshire since 2009.
Last year, 41 mosquito batches tested positive for West Nile and there was one human case. That represented a big spike from 2011, when just nine mosquito batches tested positive for the virus.
People and animals can contract both EEE and WNV after being bitten by an infected mosquito. EEE is the more serious disease and more often fatal.
Symptoms of EEE include high fever, serious headache, a stiff neck and sore throat.
Symptoms of WNV include fever and headache. Both diseases usually present with four to 10 days of someone being bitten by an infected mosquito.
The mosquito batch infected with West Nile in Sandown was discovered just before the town’s Old Home Days celebration. Selectmen authorized emergency spraying by Dragon Mosquito Control in advance of the event.
Londonderry officials, too, ordered precautionary spraying last week before that town kicked off its five-day Old Home Day events.
Less than two weeks ago, Dragon Mosquito owner Sarah McGregor said she expected to hear of mosquitoes testing positive for EEE any day.
“I am seeing a fair number of species that can carry EEE when I trap,” she said Aug. 7. “I know the ingredients are there.”
Residents should take the usual precautions — remove any standing water, repair torn screens, use insect repellent, and avoid the outdoors at dawn and dusk.
Officials warn more positive test results are likely.
“I expect it’s just the beginning,” McGregor said recently. “The peak is usually around Labor Day, but last summer it seemed it never ended.”
For more information about EEE and West Nile virus, visit the DHHS website at dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/arboviral/index.htm and the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov. For questions, contact the DHHS Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at 271-4496.