With four cases of the mosquito-borne virus Eastern Equine Encephalitis diagnosed so far this year in Connecticut, state and local health officials have been actively warning residents to stay vigilant.
Three of the cases resulted in death.
Some towns, like Cheshire, restricted outdoor evening activities at parks, athletic fields and other public places. The restriction began Oct. 1 and was lifted on Tuesday. It was prompted by a report in September that a mosquito trapped in nearby Bethany had tested positive for EEE. The virus can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain tissue.
Maura Esposito is director of the Chesprocott Health District, which includes Cheshire, Prospect and Wolcott. The most recent tests of new mosquitoes trapped at the same site did not yield any positive results for EEE.
“It was just time to go back to just saying, people be smart, there are mosquitoes out there,” Esposito said about lifting the restrictions in Cheshire.
In Southington, officials didn’t restrict outdoor activities, but urged residents to be cautious.
Shane Lockwood, director of health for the Plainville-Southington Regional Health District, said staff also urged property owners to clear standing water, where mosquitoes might populate.
“ All along we’ve been promoting as we do every year — control what you can,” Lockwood said.
One positive from the extra attention focused on mosquitoes this year was that it led to more information being distributed to the public, Lockwood said.
Lockwood and health directors in other communities participated in weekly conference calls with officials from the state Department of Public Health and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, which is responsible for trapping mosquitoes at different sites throughout the state and testing them for viruses, like EEE and West Nile Virus.
State health officials had called 2019 “an unprecedented year for EEE activity” in the state. Before this year, the state’s only report of a human case of EEE had come in 2013.
Mosquitoes won’t die off until a hard frost comes. But cooler weather should lead to diminished mosquito activity, officials said.
Still, Meriden Health Director Lea Crown urged residents to stay vigilant, with a message similar to Lockwood’s.
“Wear personal protection. Avoid the bite,” Crown said.
Meanwhile, the city will continue to update its own webpage on mosquito activity regularly.
“We definitely don’t want to minimize the danger of EEE,” she said.
In Cheshire, Town Council Chairman Rob Oris said he was pleased the town did enact a temporary restriction of activity on public grounds, even though it may have been unnerving to some residents.
“I don’t want to scare people from going out in the evening,” Oris said. “It’s unfortunate that we have to worry about that.”