Each summer, the Department of Public Health works closely with local and regional partners to protect Massachusetts residents against the risk of West Nile virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) – two serious diseases which are spread though the bite of an infected mosquito.
At the forefront of our efforts is mosquito surveillance – monitoring the spread of mosquitoes which are carrying WNV and EEE, so we can take appropriate steps to both inform the public and help local communities take steps to mitigate the risk in their area.
Last week, Secretary Polanowicz took an up-close look at the first step in the mosquito surveillance process, joining DPH mosquito collection staff and laboratory representatives at a trap location where mosquito samples are collected.
This particular trap is located in a town just outside Worcester. But in fact, there are more than 100 such traps located in swampy and wooded areas all over central and eastern Massachusetts. Some are the responsibility of DPH while others are operated by local coalitions known as Mosquito Control Projects.
Mosquitoes caught in these traps are sent to the Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Jamaica Plain, where a team of lab specialists sort each mosquito by hand to separate them into groups by species of mosquito. Only those types of mosquitoes that can spread EEE and WNV actually undergo testing.
WNV and EEE mosquito test results – both positive and negative – help paint the picture of the extent to which these viruses are present (or absent) in mosquito populations in a given region. Having this type of accurate geographical information can help us assess risk levels for an entire region and make recommendations to our local partners on ways to mitigate that risk.
In the meantime – no matter where you live – it’s important to take simple, common-sense steps to avoid mosquito bites and the illnesses they can cause.
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