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Common Sense Prevention Urged After Second State EEE Death



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Newtown Health District Director Donna Culbert is echoing two key points she took from a September 24 press conference in Hartford announcing a second state resident has died after contracting Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) from an infected mosquito bite.

“First, I appreciated Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz opening the press conference reminding residents not to panic,” Ms Culbert told The Newtown Bee after viewing the afternoon gathering of state officials.

“Secondly, I support the recommendations for people following common sense prevention practices that should be followed all the time to prevent getting bit by mosquitos,” the local health official said.

Ms Culbert also noted that in 2019, only one EEE infected mosquito has been trapped in western Connecticut — in Shelton. This evidence reinforces comparative risk, she said, pointing out that a total of 80 infected mosquitos have been trapped across ten adjoining southeastern communities near or along the Rhode Island border.

Governor Ned Lamont, who also attended the press conference, is also advising people in Connecticut to take proper precautions to protect themselves against EEE as state public health officials announced the state’s second death. The patient, an adult, resided in Old Lyme.

That person was hospitalized with encephalitis in mid-September and is the second human fatality from the virus in Connecticut this year and only the second since 2013, according to the governor’s office.

The governor was joined at the press event by the commissioners of the Department of Public Health (DPH), the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the Department of Agriculture (DOAG), and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES). In addition, Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe Giulietti announced that cautionary messaging will begin to appear on digital highway signs throughout the state directing people to get more information about EEE on the state’s website at ct.gov/eee.

“State government is being cautious on peoples’ behalf, and we are just warning folks to be careful, but there is no need to panic,” Gov Lamont said. “We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to provide updated information on these developments to the people of our state. If you must be outside early in the morning or at dusk, it’s a good idea to take some simple precautions.”

Informing The Public

“Our number one priority right now is informing the public about precautions they can take to reduce risk of infection,” Lt Governor Bysiewicz said. “Don’t panic, but please remember to use bug spray, wear long sleeves and pants, and try to avoid spending time outdoors after dusk. The good news is that as we continue to track and test mosquitos throughout Connecticut, we are seeing a dramatic decrease in the number of mosquitos testing positive for this virus as the cooler weather approaches.”

“The death of two Connecticut residents with EEE virus emphasizes the seriousness of this infection,” DPH Commissioner Renée Coleman-Mitchell cautioned. “Approximately a third of patients who develop EEE die, and there is no specific treatment for EEE. 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. Mosquitoes continue to be active until the first heavy frost.”

Dr Theodore Andreadis, director of CAES, said, “Right now, we are seeing that the greatest risk is east of the Connecticut River. However, the very good news is that as we monitor our mosquito population, we are seeing a significant overall decline in the number of mosquitoes collected in our statewide trapping as well as the number of mosquitoes infected with the EEE virus.”

It takes four to ten days after the bite of an infected mosquito to develop symptoms of EEE. Severe cases of EEE virus infection result in encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.

The state DPH continues to advise 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.

Even though the temperatures are getting cooler, mosquitoes continue to be active until the first heavy frost, and residents should continue to take measures to prevent mosquito bites.

Practice Prevention

Here in Newtown, the health district director said she cannot stress taking precaution enough but added that by taking common sense precautions, residents should not be fearful.

“Use precautions and continue to enjoy a healthy lifestyle with your family and friends,” Ms Culbert said.

The state advises residents to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases by avoiding being fed on by mosquitoes. This can be accomplished by using personal protection while outdoors when mosquitoes are present.

Examples of such protective measures are:

*Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods of time or when mosquitoes are most active;

*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.

Mosquitoes around the home can be reduced significantly by minimizing the amount of standing water available for mosquito breeding. Residents are urged to reduce standing water around the home in a variety of ways. Source reduction activities include:

*Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar water-holding containers that have accumulated on your property;

*Empty standing water from used or discarded tires that may have accumulated on your property (e.g., tire swings);

*Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left outdoors;

*Clean clogged roof gutters on an annual basis, particularly if leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug up the drains;

*Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use;

*Turn over wheelbarrows and do not allow water to stagnate in birdbaths;

*Change water in birdbaths and wading pools on a weekly basis;

*Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish;

*Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. Be aware that mosquitoes may even breed in water that collects on swimming pool covers.

For more information, contact CT DEEP’s Mosquito Management Program at 860-424-3011 or visit ct.gov/mosquito.

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