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Suffolk health officials: Mosquito positive for equine encephalitis

A mosquito sample from the Manorville area has tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis virus — last confirmed in Suffolk County nine years ago, health officials said Thursday.

Suffolk Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken said he is seeking state approval to declare an “imminent threat to public health.”

That move would trigger emergency state funding to help the county take further steps to control mosquito populations.

There is no human vaccine for equine encephalitis, which is spread by bites from infected mosquitoes, Tomarken said in a statement.

While symptoms include headaches, high fever, chills and vomiting, encephalitis can be deadly, causing a swelling of the brain, officials said.

Tomarken, however, said the species of mosquito that tested positive for equine encephalitis “does not typically feed on humans.”

The virus also kills 75 percent to 90 percent of the horses it infects, but there is a vaccine for horses and Tomarken urged owners to get them inoculated.

Health officials said residents should take steps to avoid mosquitoes, which also spread West Nile and other viruses, by wearing DEET repellent and to prevent the insects from breeding by eliminating standing water.

The state Health Department tests county mosquito samples for viruses.

A Nassau official said equine encephalitis was not found in the county’s latest batch of samples.

West Nile, however, has been detected in both Long Island counties. So far this year, 49 mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile in Nassau; 79 in Suffolk.

Sixteen samples from Suffolk’s latest mosquito collection on Aug. 15-16 tested positive for West Nile, officials said. They came from Farmingville, Port Jefferson Station, Setauket, North Babylon, West Babylon, Copiague, Lindenhurst, Melville, Dix Hills, East Hampton, Huntington, Aquebogue and Southold.

Every year, five to 10 people in the United States are infected with the virus. New York State has had 12 cases since 1952, but Suffolk has never had a human case, the commissioner said.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Suffolk Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at 631-852-4270.

Individuals, especially those age 50 or older or those with compromised immune systems, are urged to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, health officials said.

With Patricia Kitchen

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