Concord, NH - The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) today announced the beginning of the statewide eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus (WNV) surveillance season. The mosquito testing season runs from July 1 to September 30. In 2008, there were no identified human cases, one mosquito pool, and no animals identified with WNV, and there were no human cases, eight mosquito pools, and 1 animal identified with EEE.
“While no human cases of EEE and WNV were identified last year, these viruses were identified in the State in mosquitos and animals,” said DHHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas. “We need to remind residents that these diseases are preventable. It is essential that people follow the prevention steps, such as using an insect repellent, to avoid becoming infected by one of these viruses.”
Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito that has picked up the virus by feeding on an infected bird. EEE is a serious disease that carries a high mortality rate for those who contract the serious encephalitis form of the illness. Symptoms may include high fever, severe headache, and sore throat. A stiff neck is also a symptom of the severe form of the disease, which can lead to seizures and coma. Symptoms usually occur 4 to 10 days after being bitten.
For individuals who are bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus, the risk of contracting the infection is low and in the overwhelming majority of cases, there are no symptoms or just mild, flu-like symptoms. At times, West Nile virus can causes meningitis and can be a serious threat to seniors, young children and those with compromised immune systems. If illness does occur, it typically happens within 3 to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
“The Division of Public Health Services at DHHS will be conducting surveillance for these diseases again thing year, which includes testing mammals, people, and mosquitoes specially trapped for this purpose,” said Dr. José Montero, Director of Public Health. “As in past years, the State is requesting that clinicians report any neurologically compatible illness so those cases can be tested and investigated as appropriate.”
Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 are approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as safe and effective in reducing mosquito bites. Fact sheets about these diseases, handling of dead birds, and more information about communities under declared public health threat can be found on the Department’s website (www.dhhs.nh.gov). Questions about WNV, EEE, or bird surveillance can also be answered by calling the toll-free West Nile virus/EEE information line at 866-273-NILE (6453).