Mosquitoes test positive for Jamestown Canyon virus in Wells, Maine
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Mosquitoes test positive for Jamestown Canyon virus in Wells, Maine

Jun 15, 2023

WELLS, Maine — Officials are urging people to take precautions following the discovery of a mosquito-borne virus in the community.

The Maine Center for Disease Control recently advised the town of Wells that three pools of mosquitoes tested positive for the Jamestown Canyon virus, or JCV.

Lindsay Hammes, the communications director for the state CDC, defined a pool as a group of 50 mosquitoes collected at the same time from the same location.

The town of Wells announced the presence of the virus on its website on Aug. 25.

This is the first time since 2019 that Maine has had mosquitoes test positive for JCV, Hammes said.

“So far in 2023, the mosquitoes from Wells are the only ones to test positive for any of our local mosquito-borne diseases in Maine,” Hammes said.

In addition to JCV, such diseases include the West Nile virus and the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus.

The state has not had any reports this year of people in Maine testing positive for any local mosquito-borne viruses, according to Hammes.

Anyone can become infected by the virus, which is spread through a mosquito bite, although those who spend time outdoors are at greater risk, according to the CDC.

Symptoms include fever and chills, weakness, tiredness, inflammation of the brain, confusion, and headaches. Respiratory symptoms, such as a cough, a sore throat, or a runny nose, also may be experienced by anyone who has contracted JCV.

It is not known how long symptoms take to appear in an individual who has been bitten by an infected mosquito, according to the CDC.

About half of cases result in hospitalization, but deaths are rare, according to the CDC.

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As a precaution, the town of Wells and the CDC reccommend that people take steps toward preventing infection. Individuals are urged to drain sources of artificial standing water, such as buckets, bird baths, and more, as those are where mosquitoes can lay their eggs. People also are encouraged to cover themselves in long-sleeve shirts, pants and socks.

The town and CDC also advise people to use repellents approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Examples include DEET and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.

Furthermore, the town and CDC recommend staying indoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active, and considering postponing sports events and practices or any other kind of outdoor activity.

Having screens in doors and windows also are advised. Screens with rips or holes in them should be repaired.

There are not any medications to prevent or treat the virus, although resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking over-the-counter pain remedies could relieve symptoms, according to the CDC.

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According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, six states - Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and New Jersey - have reported JCV activity in 2023. Maine is not yet included in that statistic but does bring the count to seven, according to Hammes.

Of those seven, only Wisconsin, Michigan and New York have reported human cases of the virus, according to Hammes.

Given the pace of data collection, Maine is not included in the CDC’s national total, according to Hammes.

Hammes said the state CDC does not know precisely how or when the Jamestown Canyon Virus arrived in Maine.

“But we do consider JCV to be endemic in the mosquito populations that we have in the state,” Hammes said. That’s why we work with our partners ... to do mosquito testing every year.”

Those partners include the MaineHealth Institute for Research, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, and both state and federal labs.

“By testing the mosquitoes, we hope to get an early warning if and when West Nile virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus, or Jamestown Canyon virus occurs in Maine before it has a chance to spill over into our people or our pets,” Hammes said.

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