Potentially fatal mosquito-borne disease affects CT resident

One person has been infected with eastern equine encephalitis from a mosquito bite in Connecticut.

One person has been infected with eastern equine encephalitis from a mosquito bite in Connecticut.

Rick Bowmer / Associated Press

A resident of East Lyme recently tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis, a rare, potentially fatal mosquito-borne illness, according to the Department of Public Health.

This is the first human case of EEE in Connecticut this year, health officials said in a release, and the second ever reported in the state.

The individual was sickened in the first week of August and remains hospitalized, officials said. Laboratory tests completed Monday confirmed they have the disease.

Mosquitos carrying the virus have been found in Chester, Haddam, Hampton, Groton, Killingworth, Ledyard, Madison, North Stonington, Plainfield, Shelton, Stonington, and Voluntown, officials said. It has also been found in horses in Colchester and Columbia, as well as a flock of wild pheasants.

DPH Commissioner Renée Coleman Mitchell offered a word of caution and tips to prevent mosquito bites in the release.

“EEE is a rare but serious and potentially fatal disease that can affect people of all ages,” said DPH Commissioner Renée Coleman Mitchell in the release. “Using insect repellent, covering bare skin and avoiding being outdoors from dusk to dawn are effective ways to help keep you from being bitten by mosquitoes.”

Eight human cases of EEE have been reported in Massachusetts this year, according to the release. One was reported in Rhode Island.

High school football in Connecticut and other parts of the region has been affected by the disease, including the game between Stonington and Montville on Friday. The game was suspended after three quarters to avoid peak mosquito activity, according to NBC Connecticut.

EEE is usually found in birds and mosquitoes that do not typically bite humans, according to the Department of Public Health website.

It is spread through the bite of an adult mosquito and cannot be transmitted directly from person to person, according to DPH.

The disease causes “high fever (103° - 106°F), stiff neck, severe headache, and lack of energy,” then worsens quickly, with some patients going into a coma, DPH said.

Severe cases “are treated by supportive therapy which may include hospitalization, respiratory support, IV fluids, and prevention of other infections,” according to DPH officials.

Approximately one-third of people who contract the disease die, according to DPH. Many survivors have mild to severe brain damage.

“The DPH advises against unnecessary trips into mosquito breeding grounds and marshes as the mosquitoes that transmit EEE virus are associated with freshwater swamps and are most active at dusk and dawn. Overnight camping or other substantial outdoor exposure in freshwater swamps in Connecticut should be avoided,” officials said in the release. “Even though the temperatures are getting cooler, it is important to remember mosquito season is not over and residents should continue to take measures to prevent mosquito bites, including wearing protective clothing and using repellents.”

“Although EEE-infected mosquitoes continue to be detected in the southeastern corner of the state, the numbers are declining and we are not experiencing the excessively high levels of activity seen in Massachusetts. There are currently no plans to implement widespread aerial pesticide spraying in the state.”