Mosquitoes that were found in the Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown on Sept. 23 tested positive for the virus, said the state’s Department of Health last week. The state then issued an alert to residents in the southeastern portion of Connecticut to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
“We encourage residents of southeastern Connecticut to take simple measures such as wearing mosquito repellent and covering bare skin, especially during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active,” Public Health Department Commissioner Manisha Juthani stated.
Tests revealed that the mosquitoes were known to both feed on birds and mammals, respectively known as culiseta melanura and ochlerotatus canadensis.
“EEE virus is unpredictable and varies from year to year but we detect the virus in mosquitoes during most years,” Philip M. Armstrong, a virologist, told USA TODAY. “Major disease outbreaks are less common and occur about once every 5 years in Connecticut. The last time we had an outbreak occurred in 2019 and involved 4 humans cases (3 fatalities) and 6 horse cases in eastern Connecticut.”
According to state health officials, although EEE is rare, it can cause serious illness.
“The virus cannot be passed from person to person or from horses to humans. The risk of mosquito-transmitted diseases like the EEE virus usually increases through the late summer and early fall. Mosquitoes are active until the first heavy frost,” said the Department of Public Health. It said that residents in southeastern Connecticut should use mosquito repellent, and they should wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, shoes, and socks when outdoors for longer periods of time outdoors or when mosquitoes are more active.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meanwhile, said that symptoms include fever, malaise, chills, seizures, a coma, and vomiting.
The virus is fatal in 25 percent to 50 percent of cases and can leave others with significant, long-term health problems, the CDC says. People aged 50 or older and those under the age of 15 are at the greatest risk of death or severe disease, officials said.
There is no vaccine or special treatment for EEE, officials say. A map published on the CDC’s website shows most of the cases were reported in New England as well as Michigan, Florida, and Georgia between 2010 and 2019.
The CDC notes that the largest increase in EEE cases occurred in 2019 with 38 confirmed cases, namely along the East Coast and Midwest. Nineteen people died from the virus in that time period, the CDC adds.