Last year the mosquito-borne virus Eastern Equine Encephalitis killed at least a dozen horses and a four-year-old Oswego County girl. This week, state Senator Patty Ritchie is hosting two clinics in the North Country where horse owners can have their animals vaccinated for free.
Ritchie said the action she's taken against the virus Eastern Equine Encephalitis, also known as EEE, was motivated by a request from the parents of Maggie Sue Wilcox, the New Haven four-year-old who died of the illness last summer. She is one of five people to have died of EEE in Oswego and Onondaga counties over the past 40 years.
"After she died from this virus her family contacted me and was wondering what was happening, because they wanted to make sure that no family was going to have to go through what their family did," Ritchie said.
Ritchie said she convened a roundtable of experts in October to brainstorm ways to fight the virus. She secured $100,000 for spraying against mosquitoes on state land where the virus has been detected. And she obtained state grant funds to pay for the free horse vaccination clinics this week. The virus is always fatal in horses.
There is no human vaccination for EEE. But the vaccine for horses is 90 percent effective.
Ritchie said she hopes the clinics will not only fight the disease in horses, but also help to raise awareness about ways to prevent EEE in humans.
"The best way right now is to make sure that when you're out when mosquitoes are out, that you protect yourself with long pants and a long shirt, you wear bug spray and also you reduce the standing water on your property," she said.
The first horse vaccination clinic will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Herschberger Farm in Heuvelton in St. Lawrence County, at 210 Irish Settlement Road. A second clinic will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the New Haven Highway Department in Oswego County, at the intersection of State Route 104 and County Route 6.