(Aug. 30, 2019) The Maryland State Health Department has confirmed the third instance of Eastern Equine Ecephalitis (EEE) in the Whaleyville area. The mosquito pool is the third to test positive for the disease-carrying mosquitoes this year, with the other two cases in Whaleyville and southwest of Pocomoke City.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture conducted an aerial spray across 6,000 acres of Worcester and Wicomico county last Thursday, including where the third case was found.
The department previously conducted the same chemical spray in the area on Thursday, Aug. 7 and the Whaleyville area via truck on Thursday, Aug. 1. According to Brian Prendergast, program manager for mosquito control, the department sprays Worcester County infrequently, unless there is a confirmed case of EEE.
“It’s likely the first spray was very effective, but it was necessary to do a second spray,” Prendergast said.
He said EEE cases are more common south of the Chesapeake Bay, but that areas to the north and east are seeing an increase this year. EEE-carrying mosquitoes typically breeds in fresh water swamps and marshes. According to Prendergast, those areas are uncommon in Worcester County.
However, mosquitos only need a quarter of an inch of water to breed. Cases are more likely at the end of the summer months, and that many factors could have led to the third case within weeks after the first two.
“I suspect the birds in the swamps are highly infected,” Prendergast said.
He believes that mosquitos came out of the water after it was sprayed.
“We sprayed out of an abundance of caution,” Prendergast said.
According to the Worcester County Health Department, the virus in a human can cause fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, vomiting, diarrhea, blue or gray skin, convulsions and coma. The symptoms may last only a few days in a healthy person, or several weeks in people with weaker immune systems, especially those over 50 or under 15 years old.
Though Prendergast said the disease is rare, anyone experiencing symptoms should immediately contact his or her physician, as prolonged exposure can cause neurological damage. According to the Center for Disease and Control, an average of seven human cases are reported in the U.S. every year. There was only one reported case of EEE neuroinvasive disease in Maryland last year.
EEE may also affect horses, which can be protected with a vaccine. Horse owners should contact their veterinarian for questions. There is no vaccine for humans.
Worcester and Wicomico County Health Departments offered the following mosquito-related disease safety tips:
- Remove standing water from homes, such as those in containers, drill drainage holes, rain gutters, plastic wading pools, pet dishes or birdbaths.
- Wear clothing that covers arms, legs and feet when outdoors.
- Use mosquito repellent on body and clothing.
- Avoid outdoor activities in the evening when mosquitos are active.
- Monitor window and door screens for holes.