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There’s a lot of talk these days about West Nile Virus (WNV), and Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). The news is filled with reports about how the Zika Virus is making its way north from South America. There are documented cases all along the east coast right up into New England. So, let’s take a moment to understand what we’re dealing with. We’ll first talk about EEE and WNV. In an upcoming blog, we’ll dive into the Zika virus.
Eastern equine encephalitis is a rare but serious viral disease that is also caused by a virus transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito with more severe symptoms than for WNV. EEE is an arbovirus, meaning that it’s spread by insects. Mosquitoes first acquire this virus from birds (the source) and then can transmit the infection to horses, other animals, and, in some cases, people.
West Nile Virus (WNV) was first detected in the US in 1999, in Queens, a part of New York City. WNV can live in many types of birds and is passed bird-to-bird by certain types of mosquitoes. Occasionally, an infected mosquito will pass the virus to humans or other animals.
Generally, most healthy people do not get sick from the virus, but it may cause symptoms. When a human gets ill from WNV, they may have symptoms including encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord); encephalitis and meningitis can also be caused by head injury, bacterial infections or, more commonly, other viral infections.
How EEE & WNV is spread
As already mentioned, infected mosquitoes are the primary known source for WNV and EEE transmission to humans. When a mosquito bites an infected bird, it becomes infected. The infected mosquito could then bite a human and transmit the infection. Person-to-person contact such as touching, kissing, or caring for someone who is infected will not transmit the virus. No known transmission has occurred from birds to people. But since dead birds may have the virus, one should not handle birds or any dead animals with their bare hands.
So what can you do to lessen the chances of being bit by an infected mosquito?
1. Eliminate standing water and other mosquito breeding locations.
In warm weather, mosquitoes can breed in any puddle that lasts more than 4 days! Something as small as a teaspoon of water is a fertile breeding ground for thousands of larvae.
2. Be aware of where mosquitoes live and breed and keep them from entering your home.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Weeds, tall grass, and bushes can provide an outdoor home for even the common northern house mosquito - Culex pipiens - which is most associated with West Nile virus.
Mosquitoes can enter homes through unscreened windows or doors, or broken screens. Make sure that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace all screens in your home that have tears or holes.
Resting mosquitoes can often be flushed from indoor resting sites by using sweeping motions under beds, behind bedside tables etc. and once in flight, exterminated prior to sleeping at night.
3. Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Mosquitoes are most active during the evening and early morning hours. Wear protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks. If you’re away from home and outdoors, consider the use of an effective insect repellent, such as one containing DEET. Repellent containing 30% or less DEET (N,N-diethyl-methyl-meta-toluamide) are recommended for use by children and adults. Use DEET according to the manufacturer's directions. Children should not apply DEET to themselves. Repellents that contain Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus have also been determined to be effective.
Vitamin B, ultrasonic devices, incense, and bug zappers have not been shown to be effective in preventing mosquito bites.
But when you are home, call Master Mosquito Control (888-321-4486) to service your property with a treatment plan that will keep mosquitoes, ticks and fleas away for the whole season. Our synthetic, natural and organic treatments can address a variety of insect issues and will provide you and your family the comfort you’re seeking as you enjoy the spring and summer months outdoors.