WHITING — The state will perform two courses of aerial pesticide spraying in Whiting in the coming days in a pre-emptive strike to combat Eastern equine encephalitis.
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen announced the move on Tuesday, saying that mosquito pools in Whiting are continuing to test positive for the EEE virus. The first positive tests were discovered Aug. 9. Since then, health officials have started testing twice a week and the news is not good.
In all, the virus has been identified five times in mosquito pools from the same area. West Nile virus has also been detected in mosquitoes collected in Whiting and in Brandon.
“This is the same area we detected EEE in mosquitos last year,” Chen said in a press release. “In light of this fact and our concern for human health, we have decided to undertake aerial spraying of this area.”
Chen said to be most effective, the state will need to do aerial spraying twice, three to seven days apart. Weather permitting, officials are planning to spray the pesticide Anvil 10+10 (known as Sumithrin) on Thursday, Aug. 22, and Tuesday, Aug. 27, between dusk and 11 p.m.
The pesticide will be sprayed in very low volume concentrations from a fixed-wing aircraft. In case of rain, the operation could be postponed.
The area to be treated is limited to a four-square-mile area centered around the swampy area north of Stickney Road called Bond Island. This area is sparsely populated. The Agency of Agriculture will manage the spraying operation. The state does not intend to spray the Brandon block that was sprayed last year, as there have been no positive EEE tests in mosquitoes in that area.
The move comes before any human cases of EEE have been detected this year. EEE made its debut in Vermont in July 2012 and resulted in two human cases, both fatal. Richard Breen, 87, of Brandon and Scott Sgorbati, 49, of Sudbury both contracted EEE last August and died.
In early September 2012, state health and agriculture officials made the decision to do an aerial spraying of pesticide over the Brandon and Whiting area to kill adult mosquitoes and reduce the risk to the public health. No other human cases of the virus have been reported since.
People who are infected with EEE can develop two types of illness. One has a sudden onset and is characterized by chills, fever, malaise and joint and muscle pain, and lasts about one to two weeks. The more severe illness affects the central nervous system and causes fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, convulsions and coma. Approximately one-third of people with severe EEE die from the disease.
The Vermont Department of Health is urging area residents to be vigilant in protecting themselves against mosquito bites with the presence of West Nile virus and EEE.
The Department of Health is urging people to protect themselves against mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants outside when mosquitoes are active; using insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus; covering baby carriages or outdoor play spaces with mosquito netting; installing or repairing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out and reducing mosquito breeding habitats by getting rid of standing water and draining areas where water can pool, such as rain gutters, wading pools and old tires.
“These newest detections only intensify our recommendations to Vermonters to fight the bite, no matter where you live,” Chen said. “We can’t kill every mosquito, but targeted spraying may knock back the local population of mosquitoes that are carrying the EEE virus. Spraying could reduce risk of infection, but it’s still important that we all take precautions against mosquito bites.”
For extensive information about EEE virus and West Nile virus and mosquito pool and veterinary testing results, go to www.healthvermont.gov.