Greenwich resident 4th in CT to contract West Nile virus, officials say

A Greenwich resident between the ages of 80 and 89 developed West Nile virus at the end of the August, according to officials. 

A Greenwich resident between the ages of 80 and 89 developed West Nile virus at the end of the August, according to officials. 

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GREENWICH — A town resident is the fourth confirmed Connecticut person to test positive for West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne disease that can cause encephalitis, meningitis and even death, according to the Greenwich Department of Health. 

The patient, described as being between the ages of 80 and 89, became sick at the end of the August, according to Greenwich officials. The state Department of Public Health confirmed the infection on Friday, Greenwich officials said.

Three other Connecticut cases were previously confirmed in Fairfield, New Haven and Litchfield counties.

The state said West Nile virus has been detected in mosquitoes in 24 Connecticut towns so far in 2022, including Greenwich. Scientists with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station test for the disease and others in mosquitoes annually as a public health precaution. Since May 31, the agency has tested 196,664 of the bloodsucking bugs at its New Haven headquarters, according to Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station data.

Of those nearly 200,000, 185 tested positive that had been collected at sites in Branford, Bridgeport, Cornwall, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, Hartford, Ledyard, Meriden, Milford, New Canaan, New Haven, Newington, Norwalk, Stamford, Stratford, Wallingford, Waterbury, Waterford, West Haven, Westport, Wethersfield, Wilton and Woodstock.

“The finding of West Nile virus in both humans and mosquitoes within Greenwich emphasizes the need for immediate personal protection measures against biting mosquitoes during the day and at night,” Greenwich Department of Health Director Caroline Calderone Baisley said in a news release.

Humans primarily contract the virus via a bite from an infected mosquito. While most fight off the infection within a few days, some, especially those who are elderly or immunocompromised, can become dangerously sick, according to Greenwich officials. Symptoms typically appear within five to 15 days of a bite and can include nausea, eye pain, disorientation and severe muscle weakness, officials said. Severe infections result in death between 3 and 15 percent of the time, officials added. 

Risk of exposure to West Nile virus is highest during summer and early fall.

In addition to humans, birds, bats, horses, cats, dogs, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, domestic rabbits and alligators can also contract the virus, according to Iowa State University. Birds, in fact, serve as the primary bridge between mosquitoes and humans. In 2005, Connecticut scientists reportedly concluded that one species in particular, the American robin, plays an outsized role in transmission. When a mosquito bites an infected bird, it becomes infected itself, and thus capable of passing the virus on to the humans it bites. 

caroline.tien@hearst.com