Dumping out standing water around the yard – even as little as a half cup full – and closing down mosquitoes access to one’s home are the two best ways to avoid contracting West Nile Virus according to Donna Culbert, Newtown Health District Director.
Her advice comes on the heels of an August 29 announcement that a Stratford resident has tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV) infection.
This is the first human case of WNV associated illness identified in Connecticut this season, according to the State Mosquito Management Program.
The Stratford resident, between 60-69 years of age, became ill during the last week of July and reported being bitten by mosquitoes prior to onset of illness. The illness was characterized principally by joint and muscle pain, and diarrhea. Laboratory tests confirmed the presence of antibodies to WNV.
The person was not hospitalized and is recovering.
“If you’re planning to spend time outdoors this Labor Day weekend, it’s very important that you take steps to protect yourself from mosquito bites,” said Department of Public Health veterinarian, Dr. Randall Nelson. “Using insect repellant, covering bare skin and avoiding being outdoors during the hours of dusk and dawn are effective ways to help keep you from being bitten.”
Ms Culbert also advises depriving mosquitoes of the environment they need to breed, by aggressively canvassing one’s own property looking for even the smallest areas of standing water.
“You would be surprised at how much standing water is around your yard, especially lately as we’ve had all these sporadic storms,” she said.
The other important point is not allowing mosquitoes access to the house.
“Check your doors and windows for openings in screens, or other ways mosquitoes can get in,” Ms Culbert said, “because when you are sleeping, that’s when they are feeding.”
West Nile virus activity varies each year and is difficult to predict, state officials said. Generally, the greatest risk for transmission to people from infected mosquitoes is from early-August to mid-September.
This season, circulation of WNV positive mosquitoes is highest in coastal towns from Greenwich to Branford and in central Connecticut in Glastonbury.
“Although mosquito populations are declining, we continue to find mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus in several areas of the state,” said Dr. Theodore G. Andreadis, Chief Medical Entomologist with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES). “This trend is likely to continue through September with further expansion to more communities.”
Since June 27, the CAES has identified WNV positive mosquitoes at trap sites in 16 towns: Branford, Bridgeport, East Haven, Fairfield, Glastonbury, Greenwich, Groton, Manchester, New Haven, Norwalk, Plainfield, Stamford, Stratford, Wallingford, Waterford and Westport.
Then there is the added threat of Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
Mosquitoes with eastern equine encephalitis virus have been identified in the Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown prompting the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to close part of the forest to recreational activities and two camp grounds there.
In addition, ultra-low volume ground spraying was conducted in the area this week to reduce the number of mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes collected at trap sites to the south in North Stonington and to the north in Plainfield have tested negative. People in the immediate area surrounding the forest should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites when outdoors.
To monitor the situation, the CAES will continue to trap mosquitoes for EEE and WNV; statewide results are available on the CAES website as they become available.
For information on West Nile virus and EEE, visit the Connecticut Mosquito Management Program Web site at www.ct.gov/mosquito.
Ms Culbert also continues to remind residents, especially if planned activities bring them outdoors during the Labor Day weekend, to take precautions against tick bites. Loads of preventative information, as well as local Lyme results can be found at the Newtown Health District website.
“Consider wearing long pants, tucked in; using repellant; and be sure you do a thorough tick check on yourself, any children, and pets who are outdoors this weekend and every time you come in from the year or outdoor activities,” Ms Culbert said.