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Friday, August 2, 2013

West Nile Virus found in mosquitoes in Pelham, first sighting this year in NH

West Nile Virus has been detected in two mosquito batches in nearby Pelham, the first discovery of the virus this year in the state.

The discovery comes at the time of the season when the disease is usually first detected, so it’s unclear whether this means West Nile Virus will continue last year’s resurgence after being dormant for years. ...

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West Nile Virus has been detected in two mosquito batches in nearby Pelham, the first discovery of the virus this year in the state.

The discovery comes at the time of the season when the disease is usually first detected, so it’s unclear whether this means West Nile Virus will continue last year’s resurgence after being dormant for years.

Pelham has hired a private firm, Municipal Pest Management, to do mosquito spraying in “all town parks, schools, playgrounds and fields.” It should continue for several weeks, the town said in a statement.

Mosquitoes are being captured in traps around the state and tested to see if they have the virus. Nashua, like Manchester, does its own testing; other communities depend on the state Department of Health and Human Services.

“We are following our procedures,” said Heidi Peek, the city’s manager of environmental health, who has overseen mosquito trapping and testing in Nashua for years. “We haven’t reached any threshholds to change our game plan.”

WNV, as it is usually known, arrived in the U.S. in New York City in 1998, probably in an infected mosquito carried in a cargo ship. It spread quickly, showing up in New Hampshire in 2000.

The virus was found in animals – particularly birds – and humans. It peaked here in 2002, and then almost disappeared from the state. Similar patterns were seen around the country; it’s still unknown why.

In 2012, however, for reasons that remain unclear, WNV returned in force, particularly in the Midwest and South.

Last year the state found the virus in 41 batches of mosquitoes – more than in any year since 2007 – including batches in Nashua and Salem. One person also came down with the disease, which is unusual in New Hampshire.

The virus was found in less than one percent of mosquito populations tested.

Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, another mosquito-borne disease, also has a small resurgence in New Hampshire last year, showing up in 9 mosquito batches, the most in several years, and in four horses, a species that is susceptible to the disease. EEE has been in New England for decades and often comes and goes in cycles, so this increase was less surprising.

EEE has been found in a horse in Massachusetts this year, but has not been found in New Hampshire. It is much more dangerous to humans than WNV, so officials keep a warier eye on its arrival.

New Hampshire is home to more than 40 species of mosquitoes, less than a dozen of which carry either or both of theses viruses. Most of those species become more active in later summer and fall, which is why WNV and EEE usually doesn’t show up earlier in the season.

Most people who get infected with the virus don’t even know it, showing no symptoms. A few suffer from cold-like symptoms, while a very small number can develop severe neurological diseases such as encephalitis.

Despite that relatively low risk, it is wise to avoid mosquito bites, by wearing long pants and shirts in the evenings, when mosquitoes are most active, and using spray repellent.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com. Follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).