Block Island tests negative for EEE in latest round

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 7:00pm

The following information was released by New Shoreham Town Manager Ed Roberge on Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m.:

- Spraying on mainland scheduled to resume on Wednesday, 9/25

- No Block Island spraying scheduled to date

- No new cases of EEE in RI

- No new positive test results from Block Island test sites this week

- Maintain smart scheduling and personal protective clothing.

The following story was printed in last week’s edition of The Block Island Times:


Block Island’s mosquito testing protocol continues in the wake of a sample testing positive for eastern equine encephalitis on the island last week. The positive sample was taken at the Boy Scout Camp, located off Connecticut Avenue.

Town Manager Ed Roberge told the Town Council at its meeting Wednesday night that this week’s testing came back negative. He also noted that two more cases of EEE were reported in the state, and that “caution” signs are being posted on the Block Island Ferry and at Interstate Navigation’s ticket windows.

“DEM continues to caution us,” said Roberge, who has been on weekly conference calls with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and Bill McCombe, who is Block Island’s Emergency Management co-director.

“We’re being vigilant,” said McCombe on Tuesday. “Another round of testing went off this morning as scheduled. It’s part of our weekly testing program.”

Mosquito samples are taken from marshy areas on Block Island, frozen, and then transported to a DEM laboratory for testing. According to Al Gettman, who is coordinator of DEM’s Mosquito Abatement, testing runs from June 1 through Sept. 30, and continues some years into October, depending on the weather.

The good news is that the “first frost eliminates most of the mosquitoes,” said Gettman. The first frost on Block Island usually occurs in October.

As to how the virus got to Block Island, Gettman said, “EEE is native to North America, co-evolved with native birds and with native mosquito species. Native birds are the reservoir of the virus, healthy mosquitoes acquire it from them.” He said that infected mosquitoes infect healthy birds leading to the cycle that perpetuates the virus.

“The numbers of both infected birds and infective mosquitoes increase as the season progresses,” said Gettman. “Thus, it is of concern to other incidental hosts, such as humans and horses, for example, in the late summer to early fall period.”  

McCombe is urging the public to continue taking precautions, including wearing long-sleeved clothing, and applying insect repellent, especially when venturing out during dusk and dawn. Standing water should be removed from around properties, as they are a breeding ground for mosquitoes.