WATERBORO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Maine Center for Disease Control says the first positive test confirming the presence of the West Nile Virus in mosquitoes has been found in a test sample from York County.
Lebanon selectman Jason Cole says Lebanon officials were contacted Friday and were notified that a mosquito had tested positive for West Nile Virus during a test that was conducted Thursday.
Cole says the Lebanon Board of Selectmen has notified its emergency service leaders, emergency management, and school officials to get the word out and educate people in the community. Cole says he wants to stress this isn't an emergency situation, but Lebanon town officials want to educate residents about the virus. For more information, click here.
Reports of mosquito-borne viruses popping up in places throughout southern New England have been growing in recent weeks, so this positive test is no surprise to public health officials. Scientists across the state are continuing to take samples from mosquito pools in search of insects infected with both the West Nile Virus, as well as Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
"We have seen Eastern Equine Encephalitis in horses, and in birds and in mosquitoes and it raises a lot of concern because it is a serious illness," stated State Epidemiologist, Dr. Stephen Sears. "You know if somebody gets EEE it can cause brain damage, about a third of the people who get the disease actually get severely damaged and quite a few die, so even though it is uncommon, we are quite concerned about it."
Since late June, biologists and field technicians have done weekly monitoring of 26 locations across the state, from York to Aroostook County. Using special traps, they are targeting the dozen or so mosquito species that can transmit EEE or West Nile Virus, both serious illnesses that potentially can kill people or livestock.
"The mosquito borne diseases though are incredibly serious, and because they are viral, there is no antibiotic treatment for them," explained Chuck Lubelczyk, a field biologist with Maine Medical Center's Vector Borne Disease Lab. "So if you get one of these diseases and come down with severe symptoms, long term neurological issues are frequent."
The mosquitoes that are collected are shipped to a state laboratory to be tested.
"It is pretty scary, especially considering how many bites people get just from being outside, especially if you are out around dawn," said Leticia Smith, a tech at the MMC Vector Lab. "I'll go out in my garden and, yeah, you'll get bitten quite a lot and you are not thinking of each individual bite, and just one bite could be enough."
"I think people sometimes sort of say 'I live in Maine, mosquitoes come with the territory'," said Dr. Sears. "And they do, except, you don't need to let them bite you. You can do some things to try to protect yourself."
Dr. Sears advises people to avoid their exposure to mosquitoes all together by avoiding going outside around dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. He also suggests people wear long sleeved shirts and pants to protect themselves from being bit and says spraying on insect repellent can help prevent being bit as well.
The CDC also recommends property owners clean up any stagnant pools of water on their property to help keep mosquito populations down.