by Carol Thompson
The New York State Senate passed legislation last week that would create a panel to study the track record and emerging science of immunization and vaccines for Lyme disease, tuberculosis, HIV and Eastern equine encephalitis.
The bill, proposed by Senator Patty Ritchie, would create a “21st Century Workgroup for Disease Elimination and Reduction” within the Department of Health, comprising top experts in diseases, infection and public health, and charged with finding ways to push for the development of effective vaccines against EEE, Lyme disease, tuberculosis and HIV.
The bill, which has been referred to the state Assembly, would require the new panel within the state’s Department of Health to report annually on findings.
Lyme disease and EEE are insect borne disease. West Nile virus, another mosquito borne illness, is not referenced in the legislation.
The Oswego County Legislature has been attempting to raise public awareness of EEE and visitors to the back of the county office complex are greeted with a sign asking residents to be aware of the mosquito-borne disease.
EEE is a disease spread by mosquitoes that primarily infects horses, but is also responsible for five human deaths in Central New York in the past 30 years, including last summer’s death of four-year-old Maggie Sue Wilcox of New Haven.
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State Senator Patty Ritchie said she is sponsoring two no-cost EEE vaccine clinics for horses this week.
The clinics are aimed at raising public awareness and preventing the spread of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, the mosquito-borne disease that killed at least 12 horses in Central and Northern New York last summer. EEE also claimed the life of a four-year-old Oswego County girl.
The clinics — to be held Thursday evening in Heuvelton and Friday evening in New Haven — are funded by a special grant Senator Ritchie obtained through the state budget and in cooperation with local veterinarians. Horse owners wishing to participate should pre-register at Senator Ritchie’s web site at www.ritchie.nysenate.gov.
“EEE is a very serious disease that is nearly always fatal in horses — and nearly 100 percent preventable, if horses are vaccinated,” said Ritchie. “Yet many horse owners, farmers and others are still unaware of the danger both to their families and to their farm animals. These clinics aim to educate farmers and horse owners, and protect a very valuable investment.”
Assemblyman Will Barclay, who is co-hosting the New Haven clinic, said, “Everyone needs to take steps to protect themselves from EEE, including horse owners. We’ve got to do all we can to prevent EEE and vaccinating our horses is an important step.”
There is no human vaccine for EEE, but the horse vaccine is nearly 100 percent effective.
The clinics are being conducted by two licensed veterinarians — Dr. Jack Zeh in Heuvelton and Dr. Reid J. Oliver in New Haven — who have agreed to waive any additional fees for their services.
The New Haven clinic will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Town of New Haven Highway Department, N.Y.S. Route 104.
by Carol Thompson
The Oswego County Legislature approved spending $18,436 for a mosquito surveillance program.
The program involves marking mosquitoes with a fluorescent power to track them and is significant, county officials said, because it will help determine more precise information regarding locations, distance and time adult mosquitoes migrate.
During Thursday’s meeting, Legislator Doug Malone questioned whether the money that is going to be used to tattoo the insects would be better spent on eradication efforts.