The state Department of Health issued another mosquito alert Tuesday, advising Vermonters about the continued threat of Eastern equine encephalitis.
The department said pools of water in Cornwall, Brandon and Milton tested positive this week for EEE, a rare but potentially fatal disease.
The detection of EEE in Milton is the first occurrence in Chittenden County.
Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen said although the weather is turning colder, mosquitoes carrying EEE will remain a threat until there is “a good hard frost.”
“If anything, it highlights the fact it needs to be considered by every Vermonter in terms of taking appropriate precautions to minimize exposure to mosquito bites,” Chen said.
The disease proved fatal last year to two people from Addison and Rutland counties. Two horses in Franklin County also died this year.
The Health Department conducts active mosquito surveillance in parts of Addison and Rutland counties, with much more limited surveillance in parts of Franklin and Chittenden counties.
The mosquito pool in Milton also tested positive for West Nile virus. One human case of West Nile was reported in Lamoille County in August.
The areas around southern Addison and northern Rutland counties were thought to be a special breeding ground for mosquitoes with EEE. But Chen said the fact that a pool in Milton has turned up positive for EEE means that it’s no longer the case.
“Our previous thinking was that it was the acidic hardwood … like in Whiting and the Brandon-Sudbury area,” he said. “But the fact that we found it now in Milton and the fact that we found it now at least in an animal, but not mosquitoes, up in Franklin County, means it could be anywhere in Vermont.”
Chen said EEE has been around for many years but wasn’t detected in humans in Vermont until last year. He said this year the disease was detected in animals in other parts of New England. In Connecticut, Chen said the state closed down a state forest because of the mosquito threat.
About 20 percent of people with West Nile virus experience a flu-like illness, and fewer than 1 percent develop a more severe illness that affects the nervous system.
Horses, llamas, alpacas and emus can also become ill with EEE. A vaccine is licensed for horses that can also be used in the three other species of animals.
There is also a horse vaccine for West Nile virus. The department advises that owners should make sure their animals are current on their vaccinations.
There is no EEE or West Nile vaccine for humans.
“Although the risk is decreasing as the weather gets colder and there are fewer mosquitoes and people put more clothes on, it’s still out there,” Chen said. “People just need to be mindful of the risks, that there are risks, and they can reduce those risks by either covering up or using repellents and limiting their activities between dusk and dawn.”
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