Health officials confirm that one person in Vermont has now died of EEE and another is hospitalized with the disease. People gathered in Brandon Tuesday to learn about emergency spraying to stop mosquitoes that spread EEE.
For the past six weeks every time Vt. state entomologist Alan Graham has collected a sample mosquito population near the border of Addison and Rutland counties, he's found the species culiseta melanura, the mosquito carrying Eastern equine encephalitis.
"The concern I have is with the higher populations this year, will perhaps indicate high levels next year, too," Graham said.
Though last year, a flock of emus in Vermont tested positive for the disease, the cause for alarm now is that one person in Vermont has died of the disease and another is in the hospital suffering from the disease.
"The human risk is there," Graham said. "Decreasing the human risk is paramount."
To do that, the Vt. Health Department has ordered aerial spraying of pesticides over the area. Though they wouldn't tell us exactly where the disease-carrying mosquitoes were found, they did say they were near swampy areas bordered by routes 73 and 30.
Though the disease can be deadly, Graham says it's not that common for humans to contract.
"The species prefers birds, so 97 percent of their diet is bird blood. But 3 percent is mammal, mostly deer," he said.
Still, at the Whiting General Store, shop keeps say bug spray has been flying off the shelves.
"I was worried. I have a little brother who loves being outside, so doesn't everybody at my house. So that was a big worry," said Renee Hutchins, a local resident.
Hutchins says she welcomes the aerial pesticide spraying so her brother can continue to play.
"I know some people might object to it, but as long as it's saving people I think it's a good idea," she said.
But not everyone is happy about it.
"It's poison," said Sheri Sullivan of Brandon. "It's poison for mosquitoes, but it's not good for us either. I understand that the concern of mosquitoes."
But Graham says it's necessary now that two adults are in the hospital with the potentially deadly disease.
"That's very alarming," he said. "I feel very sorry that it's happened. It's a tragic situation."
There will be a public meeting Tuesday evening in Brandon at the Town Hall where both Graham and Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen will answer concerns people have and explain both the disease and the plan to spray, which could happen as early as Wednesday, depending on the weather.
Though some have raised concerns that it's too late into the season to spray and it won't do any good, Graham says this species does well to survive in the winter and he fears the population could be even larger next year, which puts more people at risk.
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