Fiorella Beccaglia Managing Editor
An East Haddam resident between the ages of 60 and 69 became the third person in Connecticut to die this year of the mosquito-borne eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEE virus), and a fourth person who came down with EEE five weeks ago remains hospitalized, state health officials said Tuesday, Oct. 1. According to the Department of public health, before this year we have had only one human case of EEE in Connecticut, and that was in 2013, making the resurgence of the virus an epidemic.
EEE is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the U.S. About one-third of people with EEE die from the disease and there is significant brain damage in most survivors. While there is a vaccine for horses, there is no vaccine for people. There has been a total of 12 human cases of EEE infections in Massachusetts, including three fatalities, and three human cases in Rhode Island, including one fatality. Most persons infected with EEE have no apparent illness, however some can be very ill. Persons over age 50 and under age 15 seem to be at greatest risk for developing severe disease when infected.
The incubation period is four to ten days after the bite of an infected mosquito to develop symptoms of EEE. Severe cases begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting four to 10 days after a mosquito bite. Symptoms may then progress to disorientation, seizures, or even coma. Severe cases also result in encephalitis (an extreme inflammation of the brain), and many who recover from this form of the illness have lasting mental or physical impairment.
According to the Department of Health, the virus has primarily been found in the southeastern part of Connecticut this year. There has been a total of 104 positive tests of mosquitoes. The following towns have had positive test results in mosquitoes: Chester, Groton, Haddam, Hampton, Killingworth, Ledyard, Lyme/Old Lyme, Madison, North Stonington, Plainfield, Shelton, South Windsor, Stonington, Voluntown.
The best ways to prevent infection include using bug spray, wearing long sleeves and pants to cover bare skin, and avoid spending times outdoors during or after dusk until dawn (these hours are peak biting times for many mosquitoes).
The good news is mosquitoes are cold-blooded and cold air from winter will slow them down and decrease their activity. The first frost of the season will help put them into a deep-sleep or hibernation, but true relief won’t come until a true freeze.