West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis detected in Suffolk mosquitos

Published 6:33 pm Wednesday, August 23, 2023

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West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis have been detected in mosquitoes collected from two Suffolk neighborhoods — the Eclipse area and the neighborhood of North Jericho and the Hobson and Driver area.

Suffolk Mosquito Control reported the findings in a news release Friday, Aug. 11. The department said it is intensifying efforts in these areas, such as increased mosquito surveillance, treatment of standing water, and spraying for adult mosquitoes.  

Officials said residents should be aware that there is increased WNV and EEE activity in these areas and take necessary action to protect themselves while engaging in outdoor activities.  

People infected with West Nile virus can experience a range of outcomes, including no symptoms, mild symptoms, or severe symptoms, according to the release. Around 80% of those infected — about four out of five — do not display any symptoms, according to the release. Among those who do show mild symptoms, up to 20% might experience flu-like symptoms, along with the possibility of swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach, and back.

In the most severe instances, which occur in about one out of 150 cases of WNV infection, individuals can develop intense illness, officials said in the release. This severe illness may manifest as high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness, and even paralysis.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is an exceptionally uncommon illness that affects an average of five to 10 individuals each year in the United States. When humans contract EEE, the initial symptoms resemble a mild case of the flu, according to the department release. However, the illness can advance to more serious stages, including disorientation, seizures, coma, and encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain. In the most severe instances, EEE can lead to death. Even those who manage to survive may experience varying degrees of brain damage, ranging from mild to severe.

It’s important to note that no human cases of EEE have ever been reported in the City of Suffolk, officials said.

However, EEE cases among horses in Suffolk are not uncommon. To safeguard their horses from EEE and other diseases transmitted by insects, Suffolk Mosquito Control strongly recommends that horse owners have their animals vaccinated. Ensuring vaccinations are given at the appropriate time and administered by a licensed veterinarian can contribute to maintaining the health of horses throughout the mosquito season.

The news release said residents can greatly decrease their chances of contracting WNV and EEE by protecting themselves from excessive mosquito bites while outdoors by following these recommendations: 

  • Remain indoors during times of greatest mosquito activity — one hour before dusk to one hour before dawn
  • Wear loose, long, and light-colored clothing when outdoors 
  • Use insect repellents containing DEET according to the label instructions. 

Citizens can contribute by eliminating mosquito-breeding areas around their home and neighborhood by following these steps: 

  • Empty water-holding containers — buckets, drums, bottles, tin cans, wheelbarrows, potted plant trays, etc. 
  • Properly dispose of used tires
  • Clear roof gutters, downspouts and corrugated black drain pipes for any water collection
  • Clean wading and swimming pools 
  • Drain water from tarps 
  • Place mosquito dunks in stagnant water areas around your home which include ditches and low lying areas 

Free mosquito dunks are available to Suffolk citizens at local fire stations 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Media Department at City Hall, Whaleyville Community Center, East Suffolk Recreation Center, and all Suffolk Public Libraries. In order to get your free mosquito dunks, the person must be 18 years of age or older, have proof of residence in the City of Suffolk, proper picture identification and sign the “Information Sheet” at the fire station. Placing mosquito dunks in stagnant water habitats is a common practice used to eliminate mosquito larvae. 

For additional information, visit Virginia Department of Health website at https://bit.ly/3PT2Dk2 for WVN or https://bit.ly/3RbiKL2 for EEE. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.org) or Rutgers University (rutgers.edu) websites also offer WNV and EEE advice.

For more information about Suffolk Mosquito Control contact Suffolk Mosquito Control Superintendent Charles Abadam, cabadam@suffolkva.us or 757-514-7609.