Tweede persoon sterft aan door muggen overgedragen ziekte in Connecticutoktober 14, 2019
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Over the weekend, we enjoyed summer’s death rattle (it is now officially fall, congrats to all). As we waded into increasingly autumnal temps, The Weather propelled us through a freak warm spot, one in which we’re still sort of wallowing. These 80-something-degree highs might make you want to spend time outdoors while you still can, but! Just remember, the warm weather pests are still out there, making mayhem. The mosquitoes, for example — do not trust them. In addition to making you very itchy, mosquitoes bring disease and disaster and if you don’t believe me, just consider Connecticut, where two people have now died from mosquito-borne illness: Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
On Tuesday, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz reportedly announced that a second EEE patient had died in Old Lyme. Last week, another person died in the neighboring East Lyme.
EEE is a rare virus that causes brain infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it has a 30 percent fatality rate, although people who don’t die tend to develop lingering neurological problems that may become more severe with time. The disease takes one of two forms: Systemic (characterized by chills, fever, malaise, joint pain, and muscle pain, symptoms that come on suddenly and may persist for one to two weeks) and encephalitic (brain swelling that may occur after a few days of systemic symptoms in adults, and may announce itself with fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, discoloration of the skin, convulsions, and/or…a coma). EEE is a virus passed between birds, with mosquitoes acting as “bridge vectors” between these avian chaos agents and us humans. The entire country typically sees an average of seven cases reported annually. In 2018, one person died from the neuroinvasive form of the disease, and no one died from the non-neuroinvasive form.
In Connecticut, no one has died from EEE since 2013. In the past three months, however, 101 mosquitoes have tested positive for EEE within the state (that’s compared to 78 that came back with West Nile Virus), according to the Stamford Advocate. That’s a relatively large, and therefore disconcerting, number of mosquitoes, but Connecticut officials are urging calm.
“What we’re trying to let you know is, we’re being cautious. State government is being cautious on your behalf and we’re urging you to be careful,” Governor Ned Lamont said, according to NBC Connecticut. “No need to panic.”
And you, a resident of New York City, do you need to panic? Do you need to make this incident unfolding over 100 miles away about you, as is your right as a New Yorker? According to Laura Harrington, a professor of entomology at Cornell University, probably not: Risk to city-dwelling New Yorkers should be relatively low, she tells Gothamist, because EEE transmission is rare to begin with and in New York, tends to cluster much farther upstate — Onondaga, Oswego, and Madison Counties — than our little island.
Still, this year is “definitely an unusual year” for EEE across the board, Harrington said, and the virus has shown up in mosquito samples from Long Island. Certain precautions are still recommended: Insect repellant, long sleeves and pants when outdoors — seasonably appropriate fall garments help seal out the bugs. But do not get yourself all worked up about a Connecticut contagion, because according to Harrington, most mosquitoes “travel no more than one to two miles, and often much shorter distances. Mosquitoes are weak fliers,” you see. Suck it, ‘squitoes.
If you are feeling incurably queasy about all of this, check out the NYC and NY State mosquito preparedness guides. We still have about a month left in mosquito season (April to October) and based on recent experience, it does feel like those little swamp monsters are making the most of it.