Early Mosquito Activity Reported in Maryland

Agriculture Officials Recommend Prompt Vaccination of Horses

Areas of Maryland from Baltimore to the lower Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland are experiencing an early outbreak of mosquitoes this year, prompting State officials to recommend precautions for horses and people. The mild winter and a wet spring created favorable breeding and hatching conditions for the insect, and adult mosquitoes are emerging two to three weeks earlier than normal.

"We continue to concentrate on reducing the population of mosquito larvae," said Cyrus Lesser, chief of mosquito control. "Biological pesticides are being applied to wetlands by aircraft, truck and backpack sprayers. Adult mosquito spraying may begin in early May in areas most seriously infested."

Mosquitoes can transmit diseases to both humans and animals, and as a result of the early emergence of the insect, precautions should be taken now to protect livestock, especially horses, as well persons who spend a significant amount of time out-of-doors.

"People going outdoors in mosquito-impacted areas should use repellant and wear clothing that covers as much exposed skin as practical," Lesser said. "Controlling mosquitoes around urban and suburban homes is as simple as removing any standing water in the yard, keeping gutters clear, and changing birdbath water at least weekly. Backyard mosquito control is most effective when the whole neighborhood joins in."

Horses in Maryland are susceptible to eastern encephalitis, EE (formerly called Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE), which is transmitted by mosquitoes. State Veterinarian Dr. Roger Olson says horse owners should act now to protect their animals.

"Owners should contact their veterinarian to have horses vaccinated against EEE as soon as possible," Dr. Olson recommended. "While no horses in Maryland have contracted the disease since 1993, vaccination is the only way to ensure that a horse will not become infected."

The Maryland Department of Agriculture has joined the state departments of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), and Natural Resources (DNR), to develop a plan to respond to any sign of another mosquito-borne disease, West Nile virus, this summer. The plan, which has been presented to Governor Parris N. Glendening, focuses on reducing mosquito populations and monitoring mosquitoes, birds and other wildlife for signs of the virus, which first appeared in the United States last summer in New York.

For additional information or to report suspected cases of eastern encephalitis in Maryland, contact one of the Maryland Department of Agriculture's Animal Health Laboratories in Salisbury at 410/543-6610; Centreville, 410/758-0846; College Park, 301/935-6074; Frederick, 301/663- 9528; and Oakland, 301/334-2185. Or, contact State Veterinarian Dr. Roger Olson at 410/841- 5819.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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