CONCORD — Just days after the state Department of Health and Human Services announced the first human case of West Nile virus in two years, Gov. John Lynch and the department took action Friday that allows municipalities to act against the insects.
Late Friday, Lynch issued a statement, agreeing with a recommendation from DHHS that a public health threat exists in Southern New Hampshire.
The move, permitted under state statute, allows towns to take action, including spraying, to lower the public health risk from mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus or Eastern equine encephalitis.
DHHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas sent Lynch a letter a day earlier, requesting the move, which allows for expedited action.
“The declaration is an administrative mechanism that used to allow the state to provide financial support to cities and towns for spraying,” said Dr. Jose Montero, the state’s public health director. “What it does is allow the Department of Agriculture to expedite the permit process for spraying.”
That’s usually a lengthy process for towns, anywhere from eight to 12 weeks, Montero said. The declaration allows that to happen within a couple of days.
Montero was on a conference call Friday afternoon with public health directors from around the country and CDC officials.
“The situation with mosquito-borne illness is we have no way of predicting what is going to happen. They just happen,” he said. “Everybody is trying to figure it out and no one can explain it.”
In the past month, 36 mosquito batches from Southern New Hampshire have tested positive for West Nile virus, mirroring what’s happening nationally this summer.
As of last week, 47 states have reported West Nile infections in mosquito batches, people or birds, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The total number of human cases had reached 1,118, with 41 deaths.
A Manchester man, who has since recovered, is the state’s only human case to date. In fact, it’s the first one since September 2010.