Viruses carried by mosquitoes are not uncommon in certain parts of New York State. Last year, more than 40 people in Oswego County were infected with West Nile Virus and one with Eastern Equine Encephalitis. But this year, the state's first EEE death was in Morristown, where a horse tested positive for the virus. Our Cara Thomas says the Department of Public Health is encouraging everyone to take the necessary precautions against the virus.
ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, N.Y. -- High fever, vomiting, disorientation and sometimes death are some of the symptoms people and horses experience when infected by a rare virus called Eastern Equine Encephalitis, also known as EEE. The virus originally cycles through a type of bird and is then transmitted through mosquitoes. And the public health department says the virus has worked its way into the North Country.
Susan Hathaway is the St. Lawrence County Public Health Director. She said, "The concern is we don't know how many mosquitoes in St. Lawrence County might possibly be carrying the virus."
This week, a horse in Morristown died after being infected with the virus. So public health officials are encouraging people to take necessary precautions against mosquito bites. Agriculture experts say infected mosquitoes are mostly likely found near swampy areas where they'll lay eggs.
"We certainly have a wet county. There's a lot of wetlands and swamps and rivers and lakes and that's one thing that makes our county so attractive. But that's also attractive to mosquitoes," said Hathaway.
But swamps and natural water sources aren't the only places where mosquitoes hang out.
Brent Buchanan from the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Canton said, "Simple things like bird baths and buckets that you may use in gardening or that you may have to live stock, livestock watering tubs, kid pools, kiddie pools or anything of that nature."
Experts say cleaning out those types of containers regularly or dumping stagnant water is a way to keep the mosquito population from expanding. Public health officials say people can protect themselves from getting bitten by simply spraying their skin with bug spray or stay inside with the mosquitoes come out. And for horses, there's a vaccine for that.
"If you get your horse vaccinated, the success rate is pretty good, it's not perfect, but it's pretty good and it will certainly reduce the chance that you might end up with this as a problem on your farm," said Buchanan.
Public health officials say no one has ever been affected in St. Lawrence County and only three horses have been infected with EEE and died since 2009.
Hathaway says experts from Syracuse will be coming to St. Lawrence County next week. They will be setting up traps along the St. Lawrence River to test mosquitoes for the virus.