EEE detected in RI for the first time this year

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI)  —  Mosquito samples collected in three Rhode Island communities have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), the Rhode Island Departments of Health and Environmental Management announced Friday.

The mosquitoes were trapped June 26 in Tiverton, Pawtucket and Westerly. State officials said the species primarily bites birds, but residents are still urged to protect against bites.

These are the first findings of EEE in Rhode Island this year. Currently there are no reported human cases of EEE in the state, according to officials.

In addition to EEE, Rhode Island also tests mosquitoes for West Nile Virus. So far this year, there have been no confirmed findings or human cases in Rhode Island.

Mosquito-borne illnesses are more prevalent in the late summer and early fall and the risk lasts at least until the first frost. Residents are encouraged to protect against bites and eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.

Officials offered the following tips:

Aedes aegypti mosquito
Fact Sheet: Mosquito-Borne Diseases and Prevention »
  • Remove anything around your house and yard that collects water; just one cup of water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts to ensure proper drainage, and repair holes in window screens.
  •  Remove any water from unused swimming pools, wading pools, boats, planters, trash and recycling bins, tires, and anything else that collects water, and cover them.
  • Change the water in birdbaths at least two times a week, and rinse out birdbaths once a week.
  • Use EPA-approved bug spray with one of the following active ingredients: DEET (20-30% strength), picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol. Do not use bug spray on infants under 1 year of age.
  • Minimize outdoor activity at dawn and at dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Put insect netting over strollers and playpens.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants whenever possible, particularly if you are outdoors during dawn and dusk.

According to the DEM, humans are not the only ones who can contract EEE or West Nile Virus. Horses are particularly susceptible, so officials advise horse owners to vaccinate their animals early in the season and practice the following:

  • Remove or cover areas where standing water can collect.
  • Avoid putting animals outside at dawn, dusk or during the night when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Insect proof facilities where possible and use approved repellents frequently.
  • Monitor animals for symptoms of fever and/or neurological signs (such as stumbling, depression, loss of appetite) and report all suspicious cases to a veterinarian immediately.  If you are unsure if your horse is properly vaccinated you should consult with your veterinarian.
  • Horses are the most susceptible domestic animal, but other, less common species such as ratites (emus, ostriches, etc.) and camelids (alpacas and llamas) are occasionally infected. Owners of ratites and camelids should consult with their veterinarian regarding vaccination of their particular animals.

Rhode Islanders are also reminded to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites when traveling to Zika-affected countries. Pregnant women and women who are considering becoming pregnant should not travel to countries with active transmission of Zika.

Click here to learn more about disease-monitoring efforts in Rhode Island.