OSWEGO — Following a series of positive tests for Eastern equine encephalitis in local mosquito populations, county officials are preparing to conduct aerial spraying in an effort to reduce the number of disease carrying insects.
The Oswego County Health Department announced plans Tuesday to spray approximately 10,000 acres of land in portions of Hastings, West Monroe and Constantia later this week. Officials said further details on the date, time and boundaries of the spraying will be released as soon as plans are finalized to ensure the public has ample time to make any necessary preparations.
Several mosquito samples recently collected from the town of Hastings and Toad Harbor Swamp in West Monroe have tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), which county officials called an extremely rare but serious and often fatal infection that causes encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain.
The New York State Department of Health (DOH) has declared EEE an “imminent threat to public health” in Oswego County, according to county officials. EEE is one of several mosquito-borne illnesses, along with West Nile Virus (WNV) that local officials monitor each year.
“We are working closely with the state Department of Health and are taking the necessary steps to prepare for aerial spraying," said Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang. "The official designation by the state health department is one of the first steps required before the county receives permission from state agencies to conduct aerial spraying."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only a few cases of EEE are reported each year in the United States, but approximately 30 percent of EEE cases prove fatal and many survivors have ongoing neurologic problems.
There is no human vaccine against EEE and no available specific antiviral treatment, according to the CDC.
The virus is maintained in a cycle by a single species of mosquito, which feeds almost exclusively on birds, and avian hosts in freshwater hardwood swamps in the eastern United States. The CDC notes transmission to humans requires another mosquito species capable of creating a “bridge” between infected birds and uninfected mammals.
Huang said aerial spraying is a temporary, partial measure to control the spread of EEE virus. County officials said people should continue to limit their outdoor activities around dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active, use insect repellents and wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, shoes and socks when outdoors. Officials also recommend eliminate standing water around the home.
Repellents containing DEET are the most effective against mosquitoes, county officials said, but should be used with caution and according to label instructions. Products containing picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are also effective.
Pesticide information is published on the Oswego County website, and county officials noted aerial spraying is dependent on weather conditions.
Residents within the spray area will be notified of the spraying by the Hyper-Reach Broadcast Notification Service through Oswego County's E-9-1-1 Emergency Communications Department.
Oswego County residents who would like to receive community alerts by wireless phones, text messages and TTY may register for the Hyper-Reach Broadcast Notification Service through the county E911 Emergency Communications Department at https://secure.hyper-reach.com/comsignup.jsp?id=12481, or contact E911 at 315-349-8215 or 1-800-679-3911 to request a registration form. Landline phone customers do not need to register.
For more information about EEE and other viruses transmitted by mosquitoes, call the Oswego County Health Department at 315-349-3564 or 1-800-596-3200, ext.3564 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. or visit the New York State Department of Health website at https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/eastern_equine_encephalitis/fact_sheet.htm