Third person in state dies from EEE
A third person has died as a result of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and a fourth person has been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne illness.
The state Department of Public Health announced Tuesday that an East Haddam resident who died during the third week of September was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have had EEE. The person is between 60 and 69 years old, and reportedly became ill during the second week of September, according to the state.
The CDC also confirmed that a Colchester resident who became ill during the third week of August had EEE. That person is between 40 and 49 years old and remains hospitalized, according to the state.
There were two previous EEE-related deaths in the state this year, in residents of Old Lyme and East Lyme.
“Sadly, this has been an unprecedented year for EEE activity in Connecticut,” said Dr. Matthew Cartter, the DPH State Epidemiologist in a news release. “Before this year we have had only one human case of EEE in Connecticut, and that was in 2013.”
Cartter said all four residents apparently contracted the illness during the height of mosquito season, but they lived in a part of eastern Connecticut where EEE activity has not been a problem before this summer.
To date, 108 mosquito samples have tested positive for EEE virus since mosquitoes began being trapped and tested in June, said John Shepard, assistant scientist with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. The EEE-positive mosquitoes include one trapped in Shelton earlier in the season — the first mosquito from Fairfield County to test positive for EEE in roughly 10 years.
The state’s mosquito population is declining, according to agricultural experiment station. According to the latest CAES report, released Tuesday, 2,443 mosquitoes were trapped between Sept. 15 and Sept. 23, down from 4,696 the week before. In the most recent report, the station also revealed EEE-positive mosquitoes were found in Bethany, Chester, and Middlefield.
States throughout the Northeast are experiencing an active season for EEE. In addition to the virus being found in mosquitoes, there have been a total of 12 human cases of EEE infection in Massachusetts, including three fatalities, and three human cases in Rhode Island, including one fatality.
Because the numbers of mosquitoes in Connecticut are declining, the DPH said there are no plans to implement widespread pesticide sprays.
According to DPH, most persons infected with EEE have no apparent illness, however some can be very ill. Severe cases of EEE begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting four to 10 days after a mosquito bite. The illness may then progress to disorientation, seizures, or coma.
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.
EEE virus is not the only vector-borne disease in Connecticut that can cause encephalitis. This year, we have had one case of encephalitis caused by West Nile virus.
Powassan virus, which is relatively new in Connecticut and can be transmitted by the bite of the black-legged tick, can also cause encephalitis. This year, the state has had four human cases of Powassan virus infection, one of which ended in a fatality.