State lawmakers issue report on outbreaks of potentially fatal eastern equine encephalitis
Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 6:19 am

Recent summer outbreaks of the potentially fatal disease eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, spurred state lawmakers to examine the problem in New York, and they have issued their report.

The 93-page document, including 13 specific recommendations to improve the state and local response to the virus, is the result of a roundtable last fall, sponsored by the Senate Committees on Agriculture, chaired by Senator Patty Ritchie of Heuvelton, and Health, chaired by Senator Kemp Hannon.

Sen. Ritchie’s interest in the issue was inspired by a the death last year 4-year-old Oswego County girl, the third fatality in three years caused by the mosquito borne virus. Oswego County is at the southern end of Ritchie’s 48th Senate District, which includes western St. Lawrence County and Jefferson County.

“The death of Maggie Sue Wilcox last summer focused the public’s attention on the problem of EEE which, while not unique to Central New York, appears to have hit this region especially hard and with tragic consequences,” Ritchie said. “In response, my roundtable brought together the experts and officials charged with protecting human, as well as animal life, to try to find ways to prevent additional loss of life.”

“It’s already produced positive results, by gaining a commitment from the state and county to more aggressively attack the problem, improve communication and cooperation to reduce the risk and save lives. The recommendations in this report build on that commitment in the hope that we can prevent another tragedy,” Ritchie said.

Among the recommendations is one for New York to work with the 19 other states impacted by EEE to make development of a human vaccine a priority.

Also recommended is a horse registry, better efforts at early detection of the mosquito-borne virus, updating the Health Department’s mosquito disease control plans, a the possibility of the state picking up more of the costs of aerial spraying.

Ritchie said that she was reviewing possible legislation to implement some of the recommendations.

The report can be seen at http://www.nysenate.gov/files/pdfs/EEE_Report_with_cover.pdf.