Culiseta melanura mosquito. Photo: National Institutes of Health

A mosquito sample in Manorville has tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus, the cause of a rare but deadly illness in humans.

Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken said he has asked the state health commissioner to “confirm a declaration of an imminent threat to public health for Suffolk County,” which will allow the county “to take steps to control mosquito populations.”

Tomarken said information regarding measures Suffolk County will take to control mosquito populations will be forthcoming.

The state health department informed Suffolk County health officials yesterday that a Culiseta melanura mosquito sample collected in Manorville on Aug. 16 tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus, also known as Triple E.

The presence of EEE in a mosquito sample poses a potential health risk. It is a rare illness that can be deadly for humans. It is also a concern for horses, though a vaccine is available and recommended for horses. Both Triple E and West Nile virus are transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito.

“The reason EEE is less common in humans is that the primary mosquito vector, Culiseta melanura, does not typically feed on humans,” Tomarken said. “However, the virus may be transmitted to humans and horses by bridge vectors, which are other kinds of mosquitoes that have contracted the virus by feeding on infected birds.”

Approximately five to 10 human cases of EEE are reported annually in the U.S. New York State reported 12 cases of EEE since 1952. To date, there have been no human cases of EEE in Suffolk County. The last reported positive mosquito for EEE in Suffolk County was in 2008.

In severe cases of EEE a person may experience encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, which may result in death. The mortality rate of those that develop EEE is about 33 percent, the highest among human arboviruses (a virus transmitted by arthropod vectors) cases reported in the U.S. Currently, there is no human vaccine for EEE and patients are treated with supportive care.

Horses are particularly vulnerable if they contract EEE. The equine mortality rate due to EEE ranges from 75 to 90 percent.

In 2016, the USDA reported 118 cases of EEE in horses from 15 states, including two from upstate New York. Suffolk County reported three cases of EEE in horses in 2003. Owners of equines have an essential role in preventing EEE from spreading. Horse owners are encouraged to vaccinate their animals and put safeguards in place that prevent animals’ exposure to mosquitoes as well as report any suspicious signs of EEE in animals to a veterinarian.

Additional 16 samples positive for West Nile

An additional 16 mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile virus, the county health commissioner reported yesterday. The positive samples were collected Aug. 15 and 16 in Aquebogue and Southold, as well as in 11 other locations throughout the county.

To date this year, Suffolk County has reported 92 mosquito samples confirmed positive for West Nile virus and nine birds confirmed positive for West Nile virus.

No humans or horses have tested positive for West Nile virus in Suffolk this year.

West Nile virus may cause a range of symptoms, from mild to severe. Symptoms may include fever, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, joint pain, and fatigue. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. Patients are treated with supportive therapy as needed.

County health officials urge precautions

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services continues to ask residents to assist in controlling the mosquito population by eliminating standing water on their property. With the finding of Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus in the county, Tomarken is asking the public to take steps to be even more vigilant, especially those who live in or visit the Manorville area.

Individuals, especially those aged 50 or over, or those with compromised immune systems, are urged to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. To avoid mosquito bites, residents are advised to:

Minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.

  • Wear shoes and socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when mosquitoes are active.
  • Use mosquito repellent, following label directions carefully.
  • Make sure all windows and doors have screens, and that all screens are in good repair.
  • Keep mosquitoes from laying eggs inside and outside of your home. Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out containers that hold water, such as vases, pet water bowls, flowerpot saucers, discarded tires, buckets, pool covers, birdbaths, trash cans and rain barrels.
  • Download a copy of Suffolk County’s informational brochure “Get the Buzz on Mosquito Protection,” available in English and Spanish, and share it with your community.

Dead birds may indicate the presence of West Nile virus in the area. To report dead birds, call the Public Health Information Line in Suffolk County at 631-787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Residents are encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at 631-852-4270.

For further information on mosquito borne illnesses, visit the Department of Health Services’ website.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.