STONEBORO — Testing is still underway by state officials in the Stoneboro area to make sure spraying has killed mosquitos that could be carrying a potentially life-threatening disease.
The Department of Environmental Protection sprayed Thursday in the area of McComb Road, Bradley Road, Hendersonville Road and state Route 965 for mosquitos carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, after a local farmer reported a horse had contracted the disease, said Tom Decker, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania DEP.
“We used about .75 ounces per acre which is not a whole lot, but it’s enough to knock down the adult mosquitos,” Decker said. “We always recommend closing the windows and staying inside for a half hour to 40 minutes, and we did have a couple bee keepers that were concerned, but that’s why we did it at night.”
The EEE disease is caused by a virus that affects birds living in freshwater swamps, and infected mosquitos spread it from bird to bird. A horse or person bitten by a mosquito carrying EEE can become sick, with symptoms including a fever of 103 to 106 degrees, a stiff neck, headache and lack of energy, according to DEP’s information.
These symptoms appear three to 10 days after the initial bite, and inflammation and swelling of the brain can develop, with some patients potentially going into a coma within a week. However, only two cases of EEE have been reported in Pennsylvania since 1964, one case in 1968 and a second in 1979, according to DEP’s information.
A vaccine also exists for horses that would normally prevent EEE, but Decker said the horse in question was allegedly from an Amish farm and unvaccinated.
The initial report to the DEP came a few days before the spraying, which Decker said resulted in traps being put to determine what kinds of mosquitos were in the area.
“There’s two particular species of mosquito that can carry EEE, and they were among those found in the traps,” he said. “So we decided it would be best to spray.”
There have been no further reports of horses or people being affected by EEE since the spraying, although Decker said mosquito traps are still being put out to make sure.
For people, especially hunters, who spend time in areas that tend to have the largest mosquito populations such as swampy areas and lakes, Decker recommended covering the arms and legs, as well as using insect repellant that contains DEET.
While some hunters avoid using DEET because of the odor, Decker said he himself uses Thermacell while turkey hunting because of its lack of odor.
“I know everyone looks forward to the days when you can hunt in short sleeves, but with the mosquitos out there in the swampy areas, it’s always a good idea to have protection,” he said.