Mosquito in Chatham County tests positive for Eastern Equine Enc - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Mosquito in Chatham County tests positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

A Chatham County mosquito tested positively for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE.

Chatham County Mosquito Control Director Jeff Heusel said the positive same came from the western part of the county. 

"West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis are the two big ones that we monitor for," Heusel said.

The mosquito-borne illness causes inflammation of the brain, which often starts as headaches, fever, chills, and vomiting, according to the Centers for Diseases Control, but symptoms typically take 4 to 10 days after a bite to develop. 

The disease is most commonly found in birds, but Heusel said it can be deadly in humans.

"It's rare that humans or horses get infected, which is good because it is a serious disease," he said. "It has about a 50 percent mortality rate, which is pretty high."

The CDC states about eight human cases are reported each year, but Georgia only reported four human cases between 2004 and 2013.

Regardless of rarity, Heusel said a positive EEE sample and three more positive West Nile Virus samples, mean the county is treating mosquitoes aggressively. However, recent rain is making abatement more difficult, but not only because of left over standing water.

"Actually the biggest problem we're having with the rain right now is that it's grounding our aircraft when we're trying to to do the adult treatments, and that's really what's been happening the last week or so. Every time that happens, we're having to back up at least two days to go back and treat an area because we have to notify the residents that we're going to be treating in that area again." 

Heusel said the new West Nile samples came from East Savannah and the islands, and spraying by air is more effective than relying only on ground-level treatment.

"When we're trying to respond to a mosquito-borne disease, the aircrafts are a much better way of doing it because they can cover a large area in a short amount of time," he said. "We can actually target the activity period of the mosquito with the aircraft and treat a fairly large area at the same time. It gives us, we feel, much better control over trying to limit the impact of the disease."

Last year, Heusel said Chatham County didn't have any positive West Nile Virus mosquitoes and hadn't had one since 2013. He said it is typical for mosquito-borne diseases to cycle in severity, and both EEE and West Nile Virus are endemic to the area.

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