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EEE, West Nile not seen in NH yet, but it's early

New Hampshire Union Leader
Sunday News Correspondent

July 20. 2013 9:24PM
Stagnant water is essential to the life cycle of the mosquito. This mosquito is standing on the water from which it ahs just emerged. Below the surface are several pupae waiting to emerge. (ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/DOUGLAS ALLEN)
What to do …
People are encouraged to practice the “Three D's” of mosquito prevention:

Drain: Empty out containers at least once a week. Fill in low-lying areas.

Dress: Wear long sleeves, long pants and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Defend: Properly apply an approved repellent, such as DEET or oil of lemon-eucalyptus.

Source: American Mosquito Control Assn.

Mosquitoes have loved the state's late wet spring and this summer's hot, muggy weather, but none tested by the state so far has shown to be carrying the potentially fatal West Nile or EEE viruses.

"Hot and humid is certainly a good recipe for mosquitoes to thrive in," said Piera Siegert, the state entomologist whose office enforces regulations to curtail the human-assisted spread of insects and diseases that threaten the health of the state's forests and agriculture. "There does seem to be a higher level of mosquitoes."

Results from the first half of July showed the state tested 278 batches of mosquitoes collected from about 35 communities concentrated in the state's southern tier, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

"We're getting to that time of year that people do need to be mindful that the diseases are out there in New Hampshire," said Whitney Howe, vectorborn disease surveillance coordinator for the state Division of Public Health Services.

And only the females are tested, since they are the only gender that sucks blood from humans.

Howe wasn't surprised by the lack of positive test results.

"Historically, in New Hampshire, there really haven't been positive results until the middle or end of July, which is why we begin our testing for mosquitoes on July 1," she said.

Last year's testing of 4,716 batches of mosquitoes yielded 41 positive results for West Nile and nine for EEE. Of 37 humans tested, one person from Manchester tested positive for West Nile.

Problems likely

Sarah MacGregor, president of Dragon Mosquito Control, which provides mosquito testing and spraying services to communities, including Derry, Plaistow and Salem, said early indicators and a wet early summer are pointing toward potential problems.

"I'm seeing alarming combinations of species in our light traps," she said. High levels of those species are associated with EEE.

"It's no surprise given the non-stop rainfall in June and now in July," MacGregor said.

"It's going to be a buggy summer. I wouldn't be surprised to see EEE early this season."

Last year, Manchester saw its first positive result for West Nile come from a batch of mosquitoes collected July 19, "probably the earliest we had seen it," said Philip J. Alexakos, chief of environmental health and emergency preparedness for the Manchester Health Department.

So far, so good

This month, all 52 mosquito batches tested came back negative, he said.

The city collects samples four nights a week at three locations, with two traps at each location.

Those locations are not disclosed publicly because of past vandalism.

"The first pools were collected on the 8th of July, and the ones that have been tested go through the 11th," he said.

Last year, the city submitted 700 mosquito batches and received 31 positives for West Nile and one positive for EEE.

Live mosquitoes are collected. "We basically freeze them in a dry ice cooler, kill them and sort by specific (species)," he said.

The city hired Dragon Mosquito to spray once last year, in August.

"When we spray, we only spray city-owned parks, playgrounds and athletic fields. We do not do road-based spraying," said Public Health Director Tim Soucy.

Last year, positive test results in Derry and surrounding towns led to two rounds of spraying in Derry, predominately at town and school fields and parks. Each round of spraying for the adult mosquitoes costs about $5,000, with about 80 percent of that cost covered by the schools, according to Derry Assistant Town Administrator Larry Budreau.

Funds available

Plaistow budgets $33,000 for the testing program and an additional $6,000 for emergency spraying, said Public Health Director Dennise Horrocks.

Last year, Plaistow did no emergency spraying, and the town didn't have any positive results for EEE or West Nile Virus, she said.

In Salem, the town contracts with Dragon Mosquito for $48,000 a year. According to Health Officer Brian Lockard, spraying to kill mosquito larvae begins in April in wetlands and stagnant water and continues until October.

Portsmouth Health Officer Kim McNamara said the low-lying wetlands of the city are a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Portsmouth contracts with Municipal Pest Managements Services for its mosquito-control program, with a fiscal year 2014 budget of $114,403.

"(That) includes routine mosquito control for nuisance mosquitoes and readily converts to emergency response for mosquitoes found to carry dangerous viruses, such as EEE and West Nile Virus, when necessary," McNamara said.

Bedford takes a different approach to mosquito issues, according to Deputy Health Officer Gary Pariseau.

"Currently, the town of Bedford does not do testing or spraying for mosquitoes," he said. "We did not do testing and spraying in 2012, either."

Pariseau said the Bedford Health Department is a proponent of personal self-protection.

"Information will be posted at the town athletic fields and common areas, (and is) currently a public service announcement on Bedford Community Television," he said. "In addition, the information is on our town website."

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