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It’s that time again for EEE, West Nile

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 07. 2014 7:45PM
Stagnant water is essential to the life cycle of the mosquito. This mosquito is standing on the water from which it ahs just emerged. Below the surface are several pupae waiting to emerge. (ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/DOUGLAS ALLEN)

MANCHESTER — The state is testing for two mosquito-borne viruses, after a sample tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis in Vermont last month.

Even if no cases have been documented in New Hampshire, the season is early and health officials are encouraging Granite Staters to take precautions against mosquitoes and reduce the possibility of exposure to EEE and West Nile virus.

“It’s very unusual to see Triple-E so early in the season,” said Abigail Mathewson, surveillance epidemiology program manager for the state Department of Health and Human Services. “That is concerning, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean we can make any assumptions about what the season is going to be like in New Hampshire.”

Mathewson said the first New Hampshire samples of the season started arriving last week. Results were pending and expected as early as Wednesday.

Regardless, mosquito season is here and expected to run through the end of September.

“Just because Vermont has recorded its first Triple-E positive does not necessarily indicate it is or is not circulating in New Hampshire,” she said.

Mathewson said DHHS tries to focus on the broader risk. Mosquitoes are part of summer in New Hampshire and residents should beware, but not alarmed.

DHHS issued a release last week reminding residents of precautions that reduce exposure to mosquitoes and can eliminate potential breeding grounds. The list includes removing standing water in containers such as bird baths, flower pots and pool covers. When in the outdoors, the state recommends use of insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants.

“New Hampshire is rich in wetlands and marshy areas,” Mathewson said.

Last summer in New Hampshire, 24 batches of mosquitoes tested positive for EEE and 14 for West Nile. Three horses tested positive for EEE and there was one human case of West Nile.

Symptoms of EEE include high fever, severe headache, and a sore throat. A stiff neck can also occur in the more severe form of the disease, which can be fatal. New Hampshire has not had a EEE-related human death since 2005.

The infection risk in most cases is lower for people bitten by a mosquito carrying the West Nile virus, although it, too, can be a serious threat to young children and people with compromised immune systems.

Mathewson, who is also the acting state public health veterinarian, said recommended horse owners get their animals vaccinated for EEE if they haven’t already.

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