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Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus found in Onondaga, Oswego Counties

Cicero Swamp (CNYCentral File Photo)

Mosquito pools in Onondaga and Oswego counties have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEE).

In a statement on Wednesday New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said:

To help protect the residents in these counties, I have issued an Imminent Threat to Public Health designation which financially aids the localities with prevention measures.

According to the New York State Department of Health, EEE is a viral disease that is spread by mosquitoes and can affect people and horses. Officials say people of all ages are susceptible to infection, but people over 50 and younger than 15 are at the greatest risk for contracting the virus.

In Onondaga County, a mosquito pool in the Cicero Swamp has tested positive for EEE. Officials say this is the first positive finding of EEE.

“EEE is a rare disease that is caused by a virus spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Therefore, it is extremely important that people use personal protection measures to help reduce their risk of being bitten by a mosquito," The Onondaga County Health Commissioner, Dr. Indu Gupta, said.

In Oswego County, EEE was found in two pools of bird-biting mosquitoes collected last week from the field station at Toad Harbor Swamp in the town of West Monroe.

“We are working closely with state Department of Health to monitor mosquito activity around the county and will take actions as deemed appropriate based on consultations with state and regional partners,” Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang said.

The Onondaga County Health Department is making preparations to conduct aerial spraying of the Cicero Swamp and the surrounding areas next week. Gupta said this is a protective measure to attempt to interrupt the virus cycle in the mosquito population. The timing of the spraying will be determined based on weather conditions and other factors. Officials will announce the actual date soon.

The New York State Department of Health recommends the public take precautions to reduce the risk of infection. They are:

  • Use insect repellent recommended for use on exposed skin.
  • Always follow label directions before using any kind of repellent.
  • Reduce or eliminate all standing water in yards.
  • Remove discarded tires and turn over containers in which water can collect.
  • Make sure all windows and doors have screens and are free of rips, tears or holes.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs.
  • Drain water from pool covers.
  • Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.
  • Larvicide can be used according to label directions on areas where water collects and cannot be removed or drained.

For more information on EEE, click here.

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