In the wake of a 4-year-old's tragic death, an Oswego County family and New York lawmakers are taking steps to protect public health.
Maggie Sue Wilcox died of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, last summer after being bit by an infected mosquito. "We thought they were nuisances, not killers," said her aunt, Donna Wilcox. "It's life or death, we don't know where she was bit, she was mostly home. We don't know where the mosquito came from. You have to act like it's right outside your door."
The tragic death of the New Haven girl sent shockwaves through Central New York and outraged some who felt not enough was being done to protect them and their kids. In the weeks that followed the tragedy, Oswego County began to spray to try and control the population.
Since Maggie's death, her family has been e ncouraging officials to find better ways to battl e EEE.
A victory came Tuesday when $150,000 in state money was secured to help counties spray for mosquitoes, and vaccinate horses to stop the disease from spreading in the first place.
"T he family, Maggie, we are moving forward by raising awareness so another family doesn't have a repeat of what we've been through the last few months," said her uncle, Mike Wilcox. "She was this crazy haired, wild little girl. You could walk in the door and get a whole arm full of Maggie. That's what we miss about her."
The Wilcox home is now filled with mosquito repellants. T hey never leave the house without bug spray. T hey dump standing water, which is a breeding ground for the bugs, and use larvicide treatments in the yard to kill the bugs. Simple, inexpensive steps that they say can help save lives.
The family is sending out flyers to everyone in Oswego County with those tips and also involving school districts to raise awareness among students and parents.