Around the Valley: Mosquito testing, P-EBT & a rabid bat

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The following are news briefs and announcements for residents in and around the Blackstone Valley.

DHS, RIDE announce summer P-EBT program benefits for Rhode Island families

The Rhode Island Department of Human Services and Department of Education have announced that the USDA Food and Nutrition Service recently granted Rhode Island approval to extend Pandemic-EBT benefits (P-EBT) through the summer months of July and August 2021. As they did throughout the school year, RIDE and DHS are working together to distribute P-EBT throughout the summer.

“Access to nutrition is deeply important to the health and development of our children, and ensuring that access has been one of our major focuses throughout the pandemic,” said Interim DHS Director Celia J. Blue. “This extended funding will make an enormous difference in the lives of the families receiving it. We will be working throughout the summer to get these benefits into the hands of every family who needs them.”

The summer P-EBT benefits are available to all school age children who were eligible to receive or qualified for free or reduced priced meals at their schools through the National School Lunch Program during the 2020-2021 school year and children under the age of 6 who also receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. For school age students, the first payment will be issued on existing P-EBT or SNAP EBT cards on or about July 16 and the second payment will be issued on or about August 17. For children under age 6 who live in a SNAP household, the payments will be added to their household’s SNAP EBT card on or about July 29 and August 27. The benefit amount is $187.50 for each child each month.  

Students who are already eligible for free or reduced price meals do not need to complete any additional applications and will be issued summer P-EBT benefits automatically. Students that are not currently eligible, but think they might be now are encouraged to complete a Meal Benefit application by August 27, in order to be eligible to receive Summer P-EBT.

Rhode Island was the first state in the country to issue P-EBT in the spring of 2020 and one of only 20 states to issue P-EBT benefits for August and September of 2020. After FNS agreed to resume P-EBT under new eligibility guidelines, RI was among the first three states to resume these benefits. 

Mosquito testing begins across Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has announced the first batch of mosquitoes trapped and tested this season for West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis were negative. Beginning in June each year and as part of disease monitoring efforts in the state, DEM regularly traps mosquitoes for testing by the Rhode Island Department of Health. Test results are issued weekly – with special advisories as needed.  The first trapping, conducted between June 2 and June 14, included 56 traps and 136 mosquito pools. 

In recognition of National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, DEM and RIDOH advise the public that personal protection is the first line of defense against mosquitoes that may carry WNV, EEE, or other diseases – and the most effective way to avoid infection. With WNV and EEE established throughout the state, residents are reminded to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds and prevent being bitten, whenever possible. The following precautions are advised.

Protect yourself

Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that are loose or have holes.

At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes that carry EEE are most active), consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning. If you must be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use bug spray.

Use EPA-approved bug spray with one of the following active ingredients: DEET (20-30% strength); picaridin, IR3535; and oil of lemon eucalyptus or paramenthane. Always read the label and follow all directions and precautions.

Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants under two months of age. Children should be careful not to rub their eyes after bug spray has been applied on their skin. Wash children’s hands with soap and water to remove any bug spray when they return indoors.

Put mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages.

Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds

  • Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. Just one cup of water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes; an unused tire containing water can produce thousands of mosquitoes.
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts so that they can drain properly.
  • Remove any water from unused swimming pools, wading pools, boats, planters, trash and recycling bins, tires, and anything else that collects water, and cover them.
  • Remove or treat any shallow water that can accumulate on top of a pool cover. Larvicide treatments, such as Mosquito Dunks can be applied to kill immature mosquitoes. This environmentally-friendly product is available at many hardware and garden stores and on-line.
  • Change the water in birdbaths at least once a week and rinse out birdbaths once a week.

Best practices for horse owners

Horses are particularly susceptible to WNV and EEE. Horse owners are advised to vaccinate their animals early in the season and practice the following:

  • Remove or cover areas where standing water can collect.
  • Avoid putting animals outside at dawn, dusk, or during the night when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Insect-proof facilities where possible and use approved repellents frequently.
  • Monitor animals for symptoms of fever and/or neurological signs (such as stumbling, moodiness, loss of appetite) and report all suspicious cases to a veterinarian immediately. If you are unsure if your horse is properly vaccinated, you should consult with your veterinarian.

Visit health.ri.gov/mosquito for additional mosquito prevention tips, videos, and local data. DEM and RIDOH also remind Rhode Islanders to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites when traveling to Zika-affected countries. Pregnant women and women who are considering becoming pregnant should not travel to countries with active transmission of Zika.

Mosquitoes are trapped weekly by DEM and tested at the RIDOH State Health Laboratories. DEM issues advisories on test results from July through September, with additional reports as necessary. Test results are pending for traps set on June 17 and June 21 and will be included in future announcements. Typically, positive test results trigger additional trapping to assess risk. 

Bat from Warwick tests positive for rabies

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Rhode Island Department of Health are alerting the public that a brown bat found on the beach at Goddard Memorial State Park in Warwick earlier this month tested positive for rabies. Because rabies is a fatal disease, anyone who may have had contact with this animal is urged to contact RIDOH as soon as possible.

The bat was discovered by a Massachusetts veterinarian who was walking on the beach at Goddard Park on Thursday, June 10.  The veterinarian brought the bat to a DEM employee and requested it to be tested. That day the bat was submitted by a DEM Environmental Police Officer to RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories for rabies testing. The positive rabies test was confirmed the following day.  There was no known exposure to the bat.

Out of an abundance of caution, anyone who may have had direct contact with a bat on the beach at Goddard Park, or anyone who was walking a pet and the pet had contact, should call RIDOH’s Center for Acute Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 401-222-2577 (Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) or 401-276-8046 after hours for treatment guidance.

The rabies virus infects the central nervous system. If a person does not receive the appropriate medical care after a potential rabies exposure, the virus can cause disease in the brain, ultimately resulting in death. Rabies treatment must be started as soon as possible after exposure.

All dogs, cats and ferrets are required by state law to have current vaccination against rabies. Vaccination of pets prevents them from contracting rabies and prevents people from becoming exposed to rabies through their pets.

RIDOH and DEM make the following recommendations to prevent rabies:

– Make sure all dogs, cats, and ferrets are up to date on rabies vaccination.

– Avoid all contact with and do not feed stray or free-roaming domestic animals.

– Avoid all contact with and do not feed wild animals.

– Do not feed your animals outdoors, as this will attract other animals. This is especially dangerous when feeding large numbers of free-roaming cats.

– Protect your pets by always maintaining control; walk dogs on a leash or let them play in a fenced yard, and do not let pets wander unsupervised.

– Report all animal bites to your city/town’s animal control officer.

– Securely cover all garbage cans so wild animals cannot scavenge for food.

For more information, visit www.health.ri.gov/diseases/rabies

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