CONNECTICUT — Over the past month, the presence of mosquitoes testing positive for the deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus led to field curfews, warnings and health scares in several Connecticut towns.
The EEE scare began taking shape over the past week when state health officials announced that a second Connecticut resident had died as a result of the virus and that EEE-infected mosquitos were now found in South Windsor. Two Connecticut residents from East and Old Lyme were killed by the EEE virus, officials confirmed. EEE mosquitoes have now been found in 21 Connecticut towns.
The virus has forced some towns to suspend evening activities and change the start times for some area high school football games.
South Windsor residents were urged to “protect” themselves from mosquito bites and “mosquito-borne diseases.” The virus is spread to people through the bite of infected mosquitoes. EEE is rare in the United States with an average of seven cases reported each year.
Severe cases of EEE virus infection (involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, and coma. Approximately a third of patients who develop EEE die, and many of those who survive have mild to severe brain damage, according to the DPH.
There is no specific treatment for EEE. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, and no effective anti-viral drugs have been discovered. Severe illnesses are treated by supportive therapy which may include hospitalization, respiratory support, IV fluids, and prevention of other infections. It takes 4 to 10 days after the bite of an infected mosquito to develop symptoms of EEE.
Connecticut Mosquito Management program.
Once word surfaced about the two recent deaths in Connecticut and more towns testing positive for mosquitoes carrying EEE it set off warnings and outdoor curfews in the north-central and eastern parts of the state. For example, South Windsor officials said no activities were to take place after dusk on public fields. Branford instituted a similar statement suspending activities at recreational facilities across town after 5:30 p.m. New London also mandated that all city sponsored or supervised outdoor activities will end by dusk.
Similar warnings were sent to soccer and fall lacrosse programs in Tolland and Vernon. The restrictions began as early as 5:30 p.m. and will not be lifted until the first “hard frost” of the season, officials said. Temps will remain above normal all next week, according to the National Weather Service.
Mosquito spraying was ordered in South Windsor. Officials from the state mosquito program said, though mosquito populations are in decline, data shows the distribution of Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus activity has grown over the past several weeks, and has now been documented in 21 municipalities, mostly in eastern Connecticut.
Here is a breakdown:
Mosquitos Testing Positive
- East Lyme
- North Stonington
- Old Lyme
- South Windsor
Positive Equine Tests
Humans Testing Positive
- East Lyme
- Old Lyme
An obituary out of East Lyme vividly mentioned the EEE virus. The resident waged a successful war against cancer 25 years ago and won, but was taken by the EEE virus on Sept. 19 at the age of 77.
“The death of two Connecticut residents with EEE virus emphasizes the seriousness of this infection,” Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Renée Coleman-Mitchell said.
A chart released by state officials also shows birds being infected.
“State government is being cautious on peoples’ behalf and we are just warning folks to be careful, but there is no need to panic,” Gov. Ned Lamont said. “We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to provide updated information on these developments to the people of our state. If you must be outside early in the morning or at dusk, it’s a good idea to take some simple precautions.”
The Mansfield-based Eastern Highlands Health District is recommending that residents take the following steps to prevent diseases transmitted by mosquitos:
- Minimize outdoor activities during peak mosquito biting times. The hours from dusk to dawn are when many mosquitoes are active.
- If outdoor activities are unavoidable, all personal precautions to prevent mosquito bites should be taken. They include applying insect repellent when outdoors. When used as directed, Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents are proven to be safe and effective.
- Use an EPA-registered insect repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), Para-menthane-diol (PMD), 2-undecanone.
- Cover up. Wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from skin.
- Drain standing water around property. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water.
- Draining or discarding items that hold water, unclogging rain gutters and drains, emptying unused flowerpots and wading pools, and changing the water in birdbaths frequently are recommended.
- Install or Repair Screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all windows and doors.
“Our number one priority right now is informing the public about precautions they can take to reduce risk of infection,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said. “Don’t panic, but please remember to use bug spray, wear long sleeves and pants, and try to avoid spending time outdoors after dusk. The good news is that as we continue to track and test mosquitos throughout Connecticut, we are seeing a dramatic decrease in the number of mosquitos testing positive for this virus as the cooler weather approaches.”
For information on what can be done to prevent getting bitten by mosquitoes and the latest mosquito test results and human infections, visit the Connecticut Mosquito Management Program web site at portal.ct.gov/mosquito. For more information about EEE prevention, visit the Centers for Disease Conrol website.