RIVERHEAD, Long Island (WABC) -- For the first time in nine years, a mosquito carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has been detected in Suffolk County.
The disease is fatal to both horses and humans, and the county health department is warning residents to avoid exposure to mosquitoes.
The mosquito was discovered in a trap in Manorville last week, and testing confirmed the findings.
Experts say human cases are rare, and nationwide, on average, up to 10 people a year are infected with the disease. There has not been a single human case reported in Suffolk County, and only 12 cases have been reported in New York since the 1950s.
However, because the mortality rate is roughly one third and there is no treatment for the disease, health officials are concerned.
"The reason EEE is less common in humans is that the primary mosquito vector, Culiseta melanura, does not typically feed on humans," Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken said. "However, the virus may be transmitted to humans and horses by bridge vectors, which are other kinds of mosquitoes that have contracted the virus by feeding on infected birds."
Why the virus has resurfaced is not entirely-clear, but previous summers have been drier and some speculate that this year's increased precipitation could be a factor.
In response, the Suffolk County Health Department is issuing a declaration of an Imminent Threat to Public Health due to the discovery of the mosquito. Dr. Tomarken had requested the Health Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health to approve the declaration, which will permit the county to take steps to control mosquito populations.
In the meantime, mosquito spraying will be stepped-up in and around Manorville.
Potentially deadly encephalitis mosquito found in Suffolk County