Health Departments Team Up Against Mosquitoes

State and Central NY Counties Working Together to Protect People from EEE

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 10, 2012) - State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., and health officials from counties in Central New York have joined together to raise awareness about the dangers of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and the importance of taking personal protective measures to reduce the risk of disease.

New York State and counties work together each year to monitor mosquito populations and the potential for the spread of disease. They also educate people on how to prevent mosquito bites. This year's efforts are critical in light of three deaths in the past three years in Central New York due to EEE virus, including the death of a young child last summer.

Mosquitoes that carry disease-causing viruses can be found across the State, but historically the highest risk areas for the EEE virus specifically are the Central New York counties of Onondaga, Oneida, Madison and Oswego. Although EEE virus is rarely transmitted to people, when it is, the virus can cause serious illness or death.

"Tragically, we have seen firsthand that some mosquito bites can have serious health impacts," said Commissioner Shah. "This year, we will redouble our efforts to aggressively track, monitor, and contain mosquitoes that test positive for EEE virus, while also providing information to help New Yorkers take the proper precautions to protect themselves."

Oswego County Director of Public Health, Dennis Norfleet, M.D., said, "The annual presence of EEE virus in our local environment has become a fact of life. We must all learn how to take measures to protect ourselves and our families from being bitten by mosquitoes."

Onondaga County Commissioner of Health Cynthia B. Morrow, M.D., M.P.H., said, "It is essential that the public take measures to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and to remain vigilant in protecting themselves. In addition, prevention is critical including steps to keep yards free from standing water because this is a breeding ground for mosquitoes to multiply."

Oneida County Director of Health Gayle D. Jones, Ph.D., M.P.H., C.H.E.S., said, "It is our hope that by addressing mosquito borne disease through regional collaboration, the resources we have to dedicate to this issue will be more effective. Our focus is to prevent disease by educating the public about how to protect themselves."

Madison County Director of Public Health Eric Faisst, M.P.H., said, "Looking at the issue of EEE from a regional perspective makes sense. Mosquitoes do not recognize county borders. As one of four counties at high risk for EEE in Central New York, we feel working together we can lower the risk of infection in people by providing the information residents need to protect themselves."

The State Department of Health (DOH) will begin its mosquito surveillance program on May 28 to determine where EEE virus might be present and work with the counties to determine the best way to control mosquitoes. For the past three years there have been fatal human cases of EEE virus in Oswego and Onondaga counties, the first confirmed human cases of the disease in the state since 1983.

Health officials recommend people protect themselves when outdoors by using mosquito repellent and wearing long pants and long sleeves. DOH, the counties, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend applying insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Insect repellants containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 years of age, and products containing DEET should not be used on infants under 2 months of age. For children older than 2 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends products containing 10 percent to 30 percent DEET. Ten percent DEET provides protection for about 2 hours, and 30 percent DEET protects for about 5 hours. It is recommended that people use the lowest concentration that will provide the required length of coverage and always follow label directions when using insect repellent.

People are also advised to take steps to reduce the number of mosquitoes around their homes or properties, including eliminating standing water in yards and making sure all windows and doors have screens that are in good repair to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside. In addition, New Yorkers should:

  • Dispose of used tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers in which water collects.
  • Drill holes in the bottoms of recycling containers that are kept outdoors. Make sure roof gutters drain properly and clean clogged gutters in the spring and fall.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use, and change the water in bird baths twice a week.
  • Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs, anddrain water from pool covers.

In consultation with DOH, counties that are considered to be at high risk for EEE initiate mosquito control programs, which include the use of aerial spraying when it is determined to be necessary, to reduce public health risks. Residents may contact their local health departments to obtain up-to-date information on mosquito control efforts in their counties.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes that can affect people and horses. People who are infected may suffer a range of symptoms, from no symptoms to a mild, flu-like illness with fever, headaches and fatigue to serious illness involving seizures and, in rare cases, coma and death. More information on Eastern Equine Encephalitis is available at:

Specific county information is available at: