State begins seasonal EEE and West Nile testing

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health Services has begun statewide eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus surveillance.

The division reported seven people last year tested positive for EEE, resulting in two deaths. Some 54 birds, nine horses, four alpacas, a llama and 15 mosquito pools tested positive for EEE, and 46 birds and a mosquito pool tested positive for West Nile in 2005.

“The state has a comprehensive surveillance approach that includes birds, selected horses as well as mosquitoes specially trapped for this purpose. We will be testing those birds that will provide an accurate geographical picture of the occurrence of West Nile and EEE viruses this year,” said Dr. Jose Montero, state epidemiologist. “The state is requesting as well that clinicians report any neurological compatible illness and those cases will be tested and investigated as appropriate. We still want the public to notify us of dead crow, raven or blue jay sightings, and then they will be advised to dispose of them properly. We don’t know exactly what type of season it will be, but there will definitely be infected birds and mosquitoes, so it is important to take protective measures such as using insect repellent to prevent WNV and EEE.”

The bird testing portion of the season runs from June 1 to Oct. 31.

EEE and West Nile virus are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird.

Both EEE and West Nile virus result in flu-like symptoms, however EEE, a more serious illness with a higher risk of mortality, also can present with a high fever, severe headache, stick neck and sore throat.

Symptoms for both diseases can occur within about a week of being bitten by an infected mosquito. West Nile symptoms can occur as late as 15 days after a bite.

State officials told NHBR Daily that with all of the recent rain and flooding, standing water is a concern, but the precautions are still the same — eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can breed, use mosquito repellent, wear long-sleeve shirts and pants in light colors when in areas where mosquitoes may be, and limit outdoor exposure during dawn and evening when mosquitoes are most active.

“We have seen just how dangerous eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus can be,” said HHS Commissioner John Stephen. “Everyone across New Hampshire should know that we are entering the season in which there is a risk for getting these diseases. However, prevention and knowledge can protect you from both EEE and West Nile. Go out and enjoy the summer, but remember common sense preventive measures. The last thing we want to see is a season as severe as last year, but everyone should know that there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.”

For more information, call the toll-free West Nile virus information line at 866-273-NILE (6453) or visit — CINDY KIBBE

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