Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management has detected the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus in mosquitoes slightly earlier than usual.
EEE is a bird disease that's passed on to mosquitoes after a mosquito bites an infected bird. If a human catches the virus from a mosquito, it can be fatal.
A small number of mosquitoes collected a few weeks ago in Tiverton, Pawtucket and Westerly tested positive for the EEE virus.
Al Gettman, mosquito abatement coordinator for Rhode Island DEM, said the virus is transmitted to humans only in rare cases. Although it's rare, Gettman said it’s still important to stop mosquito populations from growing.
Gettman said residents should avoid leaving open containers, such as buckets and cans, in the backyard where they can become mosquito breeding grounds as those containers collect water.
"(Leaving artificial containers around) is rather irresponsible because those mosquitoes fly around the neighborhood and pose some nuisance and risk to others in the neighborhood," Gettman said.
In addition to removing anything that collects water, residents can take precaution by limiting outdoor activity at night and using an EPA-approved bug spray containing DEET (20-30% strength), picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol.
On average, there are about one to two human cases of EEE a year in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.
To date, there are no confirmed human cases of EEE in Rhode Island.
Symptoms of the virus include sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting.