RUTLAND — As the early summer heat continues to draw out a variety of insects, concerns about last year’s virus-carrying mosquitoes have begun to arise.
Known to carry diseases such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Vermont mosquitoes have proven to be more than just a nuisance in past years.
In 2012 they were responsible for two deaths in the state, causing the Vermont Department of Health to heighten efforts to monitor mosquito activity and set in place extra precautions this season.
“It is really hard to predict where the virus will show up from year to year,” said Patsy Kelso, an epidemiologist of infectious disease with the Vermont Department of Health.
Kelso says mosquito testing for the state will begin shortly, focusing on the Addison and Rutland county areas due to the previously documented Triple E activity.
The process will consist of trapping, collecting, monitoring and testing mosquitoes from various swamps, wooded areas and local communities.
“We are focusing on areas that had activity last year,” she said, explaining that trapping locations may change or expand based on result findings. “It’s a complicated process.”
From the results, risk maps displaying varying degrees of activity levels will be available for each area, as well as potential movement updates throughout the summer as testing continues.
In addition to mosquito tracking, a Triple E and West Nile Virus information line is also available for community members. Representatives will be available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to answer questions, address concerns and dispense any important virus information to the public.
“The line will provide people with a more direct contact when faced with virus questions,” said state epidemiologist Erica Berl.
Berl believes the line will keep locals informed about activity in their area and allow information to be dispensed quickly.
Both she and Kelso agree that while statewide efforts are in full force, utilizing basic mosquito preventatives, such as insect repellent and covering up as much as possible when outdoors, are essential.
“We don’t know for sure what is going to happen this year,” said Berl. “But we want people in the area to be taking precautions.”
Though the Vermont Department of Health predicts no serious risk at this time, some are skeptical.
Brandon local Susan Brown admits to frequently having her guard up when it comes to mosquito season.
Having a daughter with an allergy to mosquito bites and a constantly active family who enjoys being outdoors, staying protected against mosquito bites has never been more important to Brown.
“It’s a big concern of mine,” said Brown, of the possibility of acquiring a mosquito-borne disease. “It’s always in the back of my mind.”
She believes that while town and state officials have ramped up efforts to track and monitor mosquitoes, there is still more to be done.
“There is always more research that can be done on the topic,” she said. “We should constantly be looking at more solutions.”
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