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DEM: West Nile Virus Mosquito Found in Westerly

DEM warns the first mosquito carrying West Nile Virus has been detected in Westerly, RI, a signal Rhode Islanders should redouble efforts to avoid mosquito bites and discourage mosquito breeding in their yards.
DEM warns the first mosquito carrying West Nile Virus has been detected in Westerly, RI, a signal Rhode Islanders should redouble efforts to avoid mosquito bites and discourage mosquito breeding in their yards.
DEM warns the first mosquito carrying West Nile Virus has been detected in Westerly, RI, a signal Rhode Islanders should redouble efforts to avoid mosquito bites and discourage mosquito breeding in their yards.

PROVIDENCE, RI – State health and environmental officials warned the first West Nile Virus (WNV) mosquito sample of 2023 has been recorded in Westerly, marking the start of the typically early-August risk of the mosquito-borne illness.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) announced the finding Friday.

DEM collected 199 samples of mosquitoes from 36 traps set statewide on July 24. All other samples tested negative for WNV and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). To date, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has announced 21 WNV findings and the State of Connecticut has announced three findings of WNV. These WNV findings are expected because mosquito-borne diseases become more prevalent in Southern New England as the summer progresses and the first detection of WNV in Rhode Island each year typically occurs in early August, the DEM reported.

To date, neither Rhode Island, Massachusetts nor Connecticut have reported any findings of EEE in mosquitoes, humans, or animals. Although extremely rare in humans, EEE is very serious and has a much higher human mortality rate than WNV.

WNV is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States and is much more prevalent than EEE. Cases of WNV occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall. There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat WNV in people. Fortunately, most people infected with WNV do not feel sick. About one in five people who are infected develop a fever and other symptoms. About one out of 150 infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, illness. DEM and RIDOH advise Rhode Islanders to reduce their exposure to mosquitoes until the first hard frost. (A hard frost is when the air and the ground freeze below 32°F for three hours or below 28°F for two hours.)

Asian Tiger Mosquito: Prevalent in RI

The Asian Tiger Mosquito has become prevalent in Rhode Island urban environments, and it has become common again this season. It is notable as a daytime biter encountered in shaded backyards. It has a striking black and white pattern evident to the naked eye. It develops from eggs laid in artificial containers, so residents are urged to remove standing water from containers such as buckets, pots, wheelbarrows, boats, and pools. Clogged rain gutters and puddles formed on tarps also can support the larvae of this species. The Asian Tiger Mosquito is known to transmit several diseases, including WNV.

Protect yourself from West Nile Virus

  • Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that are loose or have holes.
  • At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes that carry EEE are most active), consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning. If you must be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use bug spray.
  • Use EPA-approved bug spray with one of the following active ingredients: DEET (20-30% strength); picaridin, IR3535; and oil of lemon eucalyptus or paramenthane. Always read the label and follow all directions and precautions.
  • Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants under two months of age. Children should be careful not to rub their eyes after bug spray has been applied on their skin. Wash children’s hands with soap and water to remove any bug spray when they return indoors.
  • Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.

Remove mosquito breeding grounds

  • Remove items around your house and yard that collect water. Just one cup of water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes; an unused tire containing water can produce thousands of mosquitoes.
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts so that they can drain properly.
  • Remove any water from unused swimming pools, wading pools, boats, planters, trash and recycling bins, tires, and anything else that collects water, and cover them.
  • Remove or treat any shallow water that can accumulate on top of a pool cover. Larvicide treatments, such as Mosquito Dunks can be applied to kill immature mosquitoes. This environmentally friendly product is available at many hardware and garden stores and online.
  • Clean and change water in birdbaths at least once a week.

Best anti-mosquito practices for horse owners

Horses are particularly susceptible to WNV and EEE. Horse owners are advised to vaccinate their animals early in the season and practice the following:

  • Remove or cover areas where standing water can collect.
  • Avoid putting animals outside at dawn, dusk, or during the night when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Insect-proof facilities where possible and use approved repellents frequently.
  • Monitor animals for symptoms of fever and/or neurological signs (such as stumbling, moodiness, loss of appetite) and report all suspicious cases to a veterinarian immediately. If you are unsure if your horse is properly vaccinated, you should consult with your veterinarian.

Visit health.ri.gov/mosquito for additional mosquito prevention tips, videos, and local data. DEM and RIDOH also remind Rhode Islanders to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites when traveling to Zika-affected countries.

 

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of WarwickPost.com. Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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