(Aug. 9, 2019) Reports of two mosquito pools that have produced mosquitoes carrying Eastern equine encephalitis have prompted spraying in two areas of Worcester County, the Maryland Department of Agriculture said last week.
The state Department of Agriculture conducted aerial spraying last Thursday across 6,000 acres in Worcester and Wicomico counties, including Whaleyville, and began spraying southwest of Pocomoke City on Wednesday, according to the Worcester County Health Department.
Brian Prendergast, program manager for Mosquito Control, said crews were spraying the Whaleyville area via trucks on Aug. 1.
The county health department last week reported that the first case of Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, in Worcester this year occurred in the Whaleyville area.
This type of disease is typically associated with mosquito populations in swamps and marshes according to the state’s department of agriculture.
Such swamps exist around the upper Pocomoke River near Whaleyville, Prendergast said.
“It’s uncommon,” Prendergast said of EEE, “but it happens, and when it does happen, we’re very aggressive and so is the county in attacking it.”
Even though EEE, which is a brain infection, can be fatal to human in some instances, Prendergast said the biggest risk is to other species.
“The threat is if some other type of mosquito were to feed on a bird and go feed on a person or feed on a horse,” he said.
The state’s department of agriculture also recommended that people take the following precautions to prevent mosquito bites:
• Wear long, loose fitting, light colored clothing.
• Wear insect repellents according to product labels.
• Avoid mosquito-infested areas between dawn and dusk, which is during prime periods of activity.
• Install, inspect and repair window and door screens in homes and stables.
• Clean birdbaths and bowls for pet food and water regularly.
• Remove or empty all water-holding containers.
The county’s health department also has an interactive video to help area residents and visitors take precautions. Visit worcesterhealth.org for more information.
Cases of Eastern equine encephalitis in humans are rare with an average of seven incidents reported per year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“So it’s a very rare disease, but it’s a very serious disease,” Prendergast said.
About 30 percent of people infected with the disease die, and those who survive could experience neurological issues, according to the state’s department of agriculture. Adults over 50 years of age and children younger than 15 years of age are vulnerable to contracting this disease.
There are two types of illnesses associated with the mosquito-borne disease: systemic or encephalitic, according to the CDC. Signs of a systemic illness can last between one and two weeks, and include chills, fever, malaise, arthralgia, and myalgia.
Encephalitic patients should consult a physician if they are experiencing restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, cyanosis, convulsions, and coma, according to the CDC. Symptoms of Eastern equine encephalitis typically surface within four to 10 days.
There are no vaccines available to protect humans against EEE, but there are some available for horses. Horse owners should contact their local veterinarian to inquire about vaccinations.
Mosquito control and the Maryland Department of Health are also checking for other mosquito-borne diseases, including West Nile virus across the state, according to the state’s department of agriculture.
Prendergast said one case of West Nile virus was reported in June in the western part of Maryland.
As for the remaining summer and fall months, Prendergast said that “the number of mosquitoes has been down compared to last year.”
He also said his team keeps busy working to prevent nuisances and mosquito-borne diseases. He added the season usually lasts from March to October.
“So far, we haven’t seen anything this year aside from that one Eastern equine [encephalitis] that we sprayed,” he said.
However, with regards to those diseases, he said it’s on track for this time of year.
“Diseases, they seem to not to pop up until late July, early August … if they pop up, we’ll probably see them from August and September,” he said.