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News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462
For Release: September 25, 2003
Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402
Stephanie Powell 222-4700 ext. 4418

DEM SAYS THREE MORE MOSQUITO POOLS TEST POSITIVE FOR WEST NILE VIRUS OR EEE

All Rhode Islanders Should Continue to Protect Themselves Against Mosquito Bites

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management announces that three more mosquito pools have tested positive for West Nile Virus or Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

West Nile Virus was detected in pools, or samples, of mammal-biting mosquitoes trapped on September 11 in the area of the public works garage in Narragansett and on the same date in the Wickford area of North Kingstown. A pool of mammal-biting mosquitoes trapped in the Chapman Swamp area of Westerly on September 15 tested positive for EEE.

The positive results are additional confirmation of mosquito-borne disease in the environment, and residents and visitors throughout the state should continue to take precautions against mosquito bites until the first hard frost kills the remaining mosquito population.

DEM, as part of its continued statewide mosquito trapping and testing program, will set additional traps in affected areas. DEM staff set more than 40 mosquito traps statewide at least twice a week, then collect and sort the mosquitoes into species for testing at the Department of Health laboratory.

To date, three mosquito pools in three communities have tested positive for West Nile Virus, the Department of Health has reported two human cases of the disease, and DEM has tallied more than 500 West Nile-suspect birds from throughout the state. Five mosquito pools in two communities in the southern part of the state have tested positive for EEE and two horses and one emu have died from the disease, which, combined with several EEE-positive mosquito test results from Connecticut and Massachusetts indicate a higher than average risk year for EEE.

Human health is directly affected only by the bite of an infected mosquito. "West Nile Virus and EEE build up in both mosquito and bird populations as those populations exchange the disease back and forth between themselves: diseased birds infecting mosquitoes, diseased mosquitoes infecting yet more birds. All this takes time," reiterated Malcolm Grant, DEM's Associate Director for Natural Resources Management. By this time in the season, risk of infection is at peak, although biting activity is beginning to decline with the onset of cooler weather.

"It is important that people state-wide continue to take precautions against mosquito bites until the end of the mosquito season, which does not occur until the first hard frost in late October," Grant said. "People should routinely use mosquito repellent, and cover up when mosquito biting activity is greatest, particularly from dusk to dawn, place mosquito netting over playpens and carriages outside, and be sure that screens are in good repair."

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