Oswego Health Commissioner talks spraying and death of 4 year old from Triple E

Maggie Sue Wilcox / family photo

The Oswego County Health Department has reversed course, and will now spray for mosquitoes in parts of the county, after the death of a four-year-old girl from EEE last weekend.

Oswego County Health Commissioner Dr. Dennis Norfleet and other Oswego County officials held a news conference late Tuesday afternoon to discuss the county's plans to combat mosquitoes which may carry Eastern Equine Encephalitis and other contagious diseases. Norfleet says the county will spray for the insects in the areas of Volney, Albion, Scriba, and Central Square.

Norfleet says a declaration of an "imminent threat" will be made that will allow the county to begin aerial spraying, and the decision was made based on scientific data, not on cost. "We do not do this in an emotional fashion... we make the determination on the information we've gathered about the mosquitoes and their presence in the county."

Norfleet says Tuesday the county found several new pools of mosquitoes which tested positive for EEE. Most of them were collected in the Toad Harbor Swamp area. The virus was also detected in one new area along Paradise Road in Palermo. He says there is no timetable yet for when the spraying will begin, but county health officials are in contact with the State Department of Environmental Conservation and spraying contractors to determine a date and time. They are also making decisions to expand the mosquito surveillance areas throughout the county.

Tuesday morning, the family of Maggie Sue Wilcox came out and publicly criticized the health department for previously refusing to utilize aerial spraying despite widespread evidence of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in numerous test pools throughout the county. Maggie would have turned five years old today. She died Sunday morning at Golisano Children's Hospital in Syracuse from the illness that is spread through the bite of a mosquito. She is only the fifth person in Central New York to die from EEE in 40 years. Norfleet says it is not known where she contracted the disease.

Do you agree with the family that spraying should have taken place sooner? Or do you think that the health department was right to be cautious? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Before the news conference, State Senator Patty Ritchie and Assemblyman Will Barclay sent out a joint news release praising the decision to spray. The families and children of Oswego County need to be protected from this deadly disease that has already cost one family their four-year-old child, Senator Ritchie said.

On Monday, the Oswego County Health Department said aerial spraying would not eliminate EEE in the county. The county will continue to collect data, monitor conditions and evaluate all factors to formulate future decisions. It is not known whether the county is changing its position on spraying in the wake of criticism from the family and the public commenting online including the CNYcentral Facebook page.

Calling hours are scheduled for Wednesday from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. at Nelson Funeral Home on West Albany Street in Oswego. A funeral will be held on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. at the First Congregational Church on Route 104 in New Haven.

A benefit to help the family will be held on Saturday from 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. at the New Haven Fire Department on State Route 104. A raffle will be held, and financial donations will be accepted. For more information, email

Matt's Memo blog calling on the health department to talk publicly about its decision not to spray.