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Ways to Protect Yourself Against Mosquito-Borne Illness

Health officials have yet to find evidence of mosquito-borne illness here in RI, but cases have been confirmed in neighboring states.

No mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile Virus or the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEEV) in Rhode Island yet this summer, but there have been positive WNV test results in several nearby communities, including Burlington and Wakefield, MA. Reports of the EEE-infected mosquitos have also been confirmed recently in Voluntown, CT, which is adjacent to Arcadia Management Area in Exeter, frequented by hikers and fishers, especially during the warm weather months.

WNV’s effects can range from a mild fever to more severe diseases, such as encephalitis or meningitis, according to health officials.

Most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms, but the 20 percent or so people who do experience symptoms will have a fever, headache, body ache, nausea, vomiting and swollen lymph glands. They may also develop a skin rash.

Those with more severe symptoms may experience neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, numbness and paralysis.

EEEV infection can result in one of two types of illness, systemic or encephalitic (involving swelling of the brain, then referred to as EEE). The type of illness will depend on the age of the person and other host factors. 

According to the RI Dept. of Health, it is possible that some people who become infected with EEEV may not develop any symptoms, however systemic infection has an abrupt onset and is characterized by chills, fever, malaise, arthralgia, and myalgia.

Signs and symptoms in encephalitic patients are fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, cyanosis, convulsions, and coma.

Here are some tips to avoid mosquitoes and the diseases they carry, courtesy of the RI Department of Health:

Protect yourself
  • Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that have holes.
  • At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes are most active), minimize outside activities. If you must be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use bug spray.
  • Use bug spray with DEET, but make sure that it does not have more than 30% DEET. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants.
  • Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.
Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds
  • Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. One cup of water can produce thousands of mosquitoes!
  • Clean your gutters so that they can drain properly.
  • Remove any water from unused swimming pools or boats and cover them.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Change the water in birdbaths every few days; aerate ornamental ponds or stock them with fish.
  • Keep swimming pools clean and properly chlorinated; remove standing water from pool covers.
  • Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.
  • Help your neighbors, friends and family do the same things.

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