Mosquito-borne virus hits 21 towns

Although cooler weather is on the way, the risk of eastern equine encephalitis still has state health officials concerned. So far, two Connecticut residents have died of the disease that has now been detected in mosquitoes in 21 towns.

Infected mosquitoes have been found in: Chester, Colchester, Columbia, East Lyme, Groton, Haddam, Hampton, Killingworth, Ledyard, Lyme, Madison, Montville, North Stonington, Old Lyme, Plainfield, Salem, Shelton, South Windsor, Sterling, Stonington, and Voluntown.

In addition to the human cases, the disease has been identified in a number of horses as well.

The virus has mostly been detected in communities in eastern Connecticut, according to Dr. Philip Armstrong, medical entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. He warned the risk for mosquito-borne diseases will continue until the first hard freeze.

Health officials are warning people to do what they can to prevent mosquito bites, especially during episodes of unseasonably warm weather. This includes applying insect repellent and covering bare skin, especially in wooded areas and during dusk and dawn when biting mosquitoes are most active.

Eastern equine encephalitis is a rare but serious mosquito-borne viral disease in people and horses. On average, there are six human cases reported each year in the United States. The mortality rate of hospitalized patients is one-third and approximately one-half of survivors suffer from permanent neurological damage.

In Connecticut, outbreaks of the disease have occurred sporadically in horses since 1938 and the first locally acquired human case and fatality occurred in the fall of 2013.

To reduce the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes residents should:

 Minimize time spent outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

 Be sure door and window screens are tight-fitting and in good repair.

 Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods of time, or when mosquitoes are more active. Clothing should be light colored and made of tightly woven materials that keep mosquitoes away from the skin.

 Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in an unscreened structure and to protect small babies when outdoors.

 Consider the use of mosquito repellent, according to directions, when it is necessary to be outdoors.

The state’s Mosquito Management Program is a collaborative effort involving the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Agriculture, and the University of Connecticut Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science. These agencies are responsible for monitoring the potential public health threat of mosquito-borne diseases.

The experiment state maintains a network of 92 mosquito-trapping stations in 72 municipalities throughout the state. There are two in Wilton. So far this year, none of the mosquitoes collected in Wilton have tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis or West Nile virus.

For information on West Nile and eastern equine encephalitis viruses and how to prevent mosquito bites, visit the Connecticut Mosquito Management Program Web site at