As the summer winds down, mosquitoes in the late-summer months can be a public health hazard.
With the wet and rainy summer this year, Chautauqua County finds itself at the receiving end of an influx of mosquitoes.
Residents clamor for treatments to be done such as sprays which only kills the living mosquitoes - it does nothing about the eggs.
However, according Mark Stowe, director of Environmental Health for the Chautauqua County Health and Human Services Department, these methods of pest control can only be used when mosquitoes pose a health risk. These health risks take the form of the West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus - commonly described as "West Nile virus on steroids."
"Human EEEV cases occur relatively infrequently, largely because the primary transmission cycle takes place in and around swampy areas where human populations tend to be limited," according to the page on epidemiology and geographic distribution for the Eastern Equine Encephalitis on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. "Persons over age 50 and under age 15 seem to be at greatest risk for developing severe disease when infected with EEEV. Overall, only about 4-5 percent of human EEEV infections result in EEE."
While EEEV rarely results in contracting EEE - no human contracted it in Chautauqua County, although a horse died as a result last year - when it does happen, the results tend to be damaging, even if the victim does not succumb to the 33 percent morality rate as significant brain damage results in most survivors. Symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include a sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures or coma.
"EEEV can and does cause mortality, especially in children," Stowe said. "(There have been) no health risks this year. All the mosquitoes who have been sent in for testing have been negative. I will tell you this much - it's this time of year or late August when the virus builds up enough in the mosquitoes to be detected by the state lab."
According to Stowe, diseases such as EEE maintain its cycle by birds carrying the disease. When mosquitoes feast on the bird, they become infected. This in turn causes the mosquitoes to infect other birds and the cycle builds up. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only four EEE neuroinvasive disease cases have been reported in New York state between 1964 and 2010.
"As far as I know, there have been no documented cases of anybody dying of EEE or West Nile in our county ever. ... We've been fortunate not to have anybody infected with the virus to the point to having a neuroinvasive disease," Stowe said. "... It is a possibility for (Chautauqua County to have mosquito-borne diseases) - knock on wood. This year we have been very fortunate that we haven't identified any virus yet. Hopefully that continues."