Increased Mosquito Spraying Planned After West Nile Found

BERLIN — State and local officials late last week stepped up an aggressive mosquito spraying program after a horse in northern Worcester tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a disease dangerous to humans, horses and other animals that has not made its presence felt in the county in nearly a decade.
Last week, a horse in northern Worcester County tested positive for EEE, a neurological disease that affects, most frequently horses and other animals, and occasionally humans. Like West Nile Virus, EEE is spread by mosquitoes. Incidentally, the Worcester County Health Department last week announced it had received notification that a single sample of mosquitoes taken in Ocean Pines had tested positive for West Nile Virus.
Because of the positive test for EEE in a horse in northern Worcester last week, state and local officials immediately began an aggressive aerial and ground assault on mosquitoes in a vast section of the county. Last Friday, the Maryland Department of Agriculture, working with Worcester County officials, mapped out a 6,000-acre area near Whaleyville and began an aerial spraying program for mosquitoes in that area.
MDA generally checks mosquito populations in the area every week and conducts ground sprayings based on its findings. With the sudden appearance of EEE in Worcester last week, MDA has increased ground spraying activities to roughly every five to seven days over the next two weeks in a vast area in the north end of the county. The spraying will take place between dusk and dawn.
EEE is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito and cause a swelling of the brain, or encephalitis. The disease is rare in humans, but can occur when an infected mosquito bites a person. EEE occurs primarily in areas close to swamps and marshes with high mosquito populations, a description much of Worcester County clearly fits. The last confirmed human case in Maryland was in 1989 and prior to that there were two cases reported in 1982. There was a mini-outbreak of reported cases in horses in Worcester about 10 years ago, and the last confirmed case in a horse in Maryland was in 2009 in neighboring Wicomico County.
Typical symptoms of EEE in humans include fever, headache, mental confusion, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, joint pain and sometimes seizures and coma. In horses, EEE is a serious disease that can be fatal, but well vaccinated horses are generally safe from the disease. The horse that tested positive in Worcester last week had not been vaccinated.