The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that 30 farm-raised pheasants died recently in the town of Lebanon from eastern equine encephalitis — a rare but serious viral disease spread by mosquitoes.

Lebanon Selectman Jason Cole said Dr. Stephen Sears, the state epidemiologist, notified board Chairman Robert Frizzell on Monday that EEE had been found in the flock of pheasants.

Cole said all of the pheasants died around the same time, prompting the farm’s owner to contact state officials.

Tests done by the state confirmed the pheasants died from being infected with EEE.

The town’s three selectmen met Monday afternoon and decided to issue a statement in hopes of averting a townwide panic, Cole said. The statement was issued late Monday.

“The Lebanon Board of Selectmen wants to make sure that the residents are aware of the situation and are provided the facts that we were provided. There is no need for alarm, we simply want to ensure the residents have the information that we have been provided so they can make the appropriate safety measures,” Frizzell said in the statement.

Cole said the state would not disclose the location of the farm where the pheasants died, but he said there are about two dozen farms in Lebanon, a York County town that borders Rochester, N.H.

West Nile virus and EEE have been spreading north from Massachusetts, where health officials have confirmed three new West Nile cases in women.

All of those victims are recovering.

In total, there have been 13 cases of West Nile virus in Massachusetts and two EEE cases. In Maine, no person has been infected by EEE or West Nile virus.

EEE is considered to be far more virulent and serious.

Maine’s first case of West Nile virus was detected in a mosquito pool in Lebanon. The mosquitoes were collected Aug. 1, and the positive test results were confirmed on Aug. 17.

Since that test was conducted, no other mosquito pools in Maine have tested positive for the virus.

EEE typically affects people and horses, but it can also sicken captive birds such as ring-necked pheasants, emus, ostriches, quail and ducks. EEE can occur occasionally in livestock, deer, dogs, reptiles and amphibians.

Mosquitoes are known to breed in low-lying areas and standing pools of water, which are common in Lebanon, Cole said. There are several swampy areas along Route 202, for instance.

Cole said residents may want to consider using DEET insect repellent. EEE is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito.

“We don’t want to cause panic, we just want people to know that this is out there,” Cole said.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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