Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Watch out for West Nile

Time to lather up in Deet.
New Hampshire health officials today confirmed the first case of West Nile virus in mosquitoes found in Kensington. Just when we thought we'd escape the threat of a mosquito-borne illness, West Nile pops up...and you can bet Eastern equine encephalitis isn't far behind.

Here's my story appearing in tomorrow's New Hampshire Union Leader.
By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent
KENSINGTON - The town will begin spraying today around the school, town hall and a local park after mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile virus.
State health officials announced yesterday that the state’s first positive case of mosquitoes carrying the disease was found in a mosquito pool in a swamp near the town hall.
The discovery has put state and local officials on heightened alert as they hunt for more mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis, both potentially fatal diseases spread through mosquito bites.
Officials said the positive test came a little later than they expected, but that people shouldn’t let their guard down.
“The fact that it’s later in the season gives us some comfort, but at the same time we want people to be proactive and protect themselves,” said Jason Stull, state public health veterinarian and assistant clinical professor at the University of New Hampshire.
While no mosquitoes were found carrying West Nile virus in New Hampshire last year, six mosquito pools, two animals, and three people tested positive for EEE.Kensington is one of many towns across the state with a mosquito-control program to fight the spread of the potentially deadly diseases.
After learning about the positive test, selectmen and school officials met yesterday with Michael Morrison of Municipal Pest Management to prepare a plan of action. The plan will include spraying to kill adult mosquitoes around Kensington Elementary School, the town hall and Sawyer Park.
The school plans to notify parents about the discovery and the protective measures they should take to keep their children safe.
The town took steps to kill mosquito larvae in the spring.
Mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus have been popping up recently in eastern Massachusetts and Connecticut.
“We kind of saw it coming,” said Morrison, who provides mosquito control in Kensington.
The state began testing mosquitoes on June 1. In this case, mosquitoes were collected on Aug. 19 and the positive test was found when the results came back yesterday.As of Aug. 23, the state’s public health lab had tested 5,676 mosquito pools, four animals, and 118 human specimens from across the state for EEE and West Nile virus.
“We have continued our surveillance efforts this year for these diseases and will enhance local efforts as needed through state-sponsored mosquito trapping,” Dr. Jose Montero, the state’s director of public health, said in a statement. “I am hopeful that this (West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis) season will be short and that we will have an early frost, but people should continue to be vigilant with prevention measures such as wearing mosquito repellant until that time…”

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