Audubon mosquitoes test positive for viruses

MAYVILLE – Mosqui-toes taken from the James-town Audubon have tested positive for West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

The Audubon was notified Friday by the Health Department that mosquitoes had tested positive for both viruses. According to Ruth Lundin, Jamestown Audubon Society president, mosquitoes are constantly monitored during the summer months. The mosquitoes that tested positive were taken from July 27.

“The risk is actually very, very, very, very low,” Lundin said. “But, it is a very serious disease when people get it. We want people to be informed.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Nile Virus is most commonly transferred to humans from mosquitoes. Most people infected with the virus show no symptoms. However, roughly one in five people who are infected will develop a fever and other symptoms, such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurological illness.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is rare in humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people infected by the virus show no symptoms. Severe cases, however, begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, or coma. The virus is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with approximately 33 percent mortality and significant brain damage in most survivors.

As a precaution, the Audubon is closing its trails during the dawn and dusk hours, opening only from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Additionally, Lundin said the Audubon is requiring that patrons put on insect repellent and recommending that patrons wear long pants, shoes and socks, and a long sleeved shirt when hiking at the Audubon.

“Those mosquitoes just don’t bite humans,” Lundin emphasized. “It is very uncommon for either of them to impact humans. They test here because it’s an area where the public is active, but it may very well be that this is found other places, in people’s own yards.”

Lundin recommended residents look at places in their own yards that may be potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes, in order to reduce their risk. Such places would include anywhere there is still, standing water, such as in abandoned tires.

“We’re like anybody else,” Lundin said. “We try to control pools that don’t belong in the area. We do not try to control the population that naturally is incurring in the wetlands and in the swamps. That’s all a part of the food chain.”

Although there is a relatively low risk for humans being infected, Lundin said the Audubon is working to monitor the animals on the property for signs of either disease, especially with Liberty, the Audubon’s bald eagle.

“It’s hard to get insect repellent on her, I’ll tell you,” Lundin joked. “But, they are trying to develop a vaccine. The only vaccine they have right now is for the horses, so we use a smaller dosage of that (for Liberty).”

According to the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, the risk of contracting either virus runs from June through September, with peak activity late July to August. In the last 12 years, New York state has reported 490 human cases of West Nile with 37 fatalities. There have been five reported human cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in the last 40 years, all of which were fatal.

It is important to seek the opinion of a medical professional if any symptoms of West Nile or Eastern Equine Encephalitis appear.