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Mosquitoes with West Nile virus identified in Meriden 

MERIDEN – Mosquitos infected with West Nile virus were trapped and identified by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in Meriden, the city's Health and Human Services Department announced Tuesday. 

Meriden is one of over 30 cities across Connecticut identified to have trapped mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus this summer. The virus was identified from the agricultural station's Mosquito Management Program at the Falcon Field trapping site on Sept. 7, according to a press release from the city. 

"With the significant amount of rain we have had over the past 24 hours, please dump any standing water around your home. Also, make sure your door and window screens are in good repair, cover bare skin and use insect repellent when outside – especially at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active", said Lea Crown, Director of Health and Human Services, in the press release. 

What is the West Nile virus? 

Mosquitoes, horses, wild birds or people infected with West Nile virus have been found yearly across the states since 1999, when the disease was first identified in the U.S, according to CAES

Although mosquito season starts in early spring, the West Nile-positive mosquitoes usually begin appearing in late summer. The season peaks in early fall and the mosquitoes hibernate following the first frost, which is defined as two consecutive hours of temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit or three hours below 32 degrees. 

"We are experiencing a very active mosquito season for this time of year due to the unseasonably warm weather during recent weeks," said Dr. Jason White, Director of CAES, in a CAES press release from last week.

Where has West Nile Virus been found? 

According to CAES, 181 human cases of West Nile virus, including four fatalities, have been reported in Connecticut since 2000. 

So far this summer, CAES has found infected West Nile virus mosquitoes in 33 Connecticut towns. The towns include Bethel, Branford, Bridgeport, Colchester, Danbury, Darien, East Haddam, East Haven, Fairfield, Glastonbury, Greenwich, Hartford, Hebron, Killingworth, Manchester, Mansfield, Middlefield, Milford, New Canaan, New Haven, North Stonington, Norwalk, South Windsor, Stamford, Tolland, Wallingford, Waterbury, Waterford, West Haven, Westport, Wethersfield, Willington, and Wilton.

Two human West Nile virus infections were reported in Connecticut this year. 

What are thesymptoms? 

West Nile virus is most commonly spread to people through a bite from an infected mosquito. Symptoms can start occurring 3 to 14 days after being bitten. 

However, according to CAES, the chances of developing the West Nile virus illness are less than 1 in 100. Most individuals who are infected have no symptoms or experience mild illness. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, people with mild illness may experience fevers, headaches, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or a rash. Most recover entirely but may experience fatigue and weakness for weeks or months.

A severe West Nile virus illness may attack the central nervous system, leaving a person permanently disabled. Symptoms may include high fever, headaches, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, vision loss, muscle weakness and paralysis.

The virus can also cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, or meningitis, an inflammation of membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Recovery could take several weeks or months, but some effects on the central nervous system may be permanent. 

People most at risk of developing severe symptoms are people over 60 and people who are autoimmune compromised.

There's no specific treatment or vaccine for West Nile virus; however, symptoms and complications from the illness are treatable. 

How to protectyourself

Although the likelihood of being bitten by an infected mosquito is low, the Meriden Health and Human Services Department released a series of recommendations to minimize exposure, such as reducing time outside during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. 

Other recommendations included wearing light-colored and tightly woven long-sleeved shirts and long pants while outdoors for extended periods and using insect repellent on exposed skin.

In the home, residents can ensure that all doors and window screens do not have holes and are tightly closed. Dumping out standing water can also help eliminate mosquito larvae. 

“As we are enjoying the rest of our summer moving into fall, as we start to go on hikes out at Hubbard Park or at Giuffrida Park to look at the leaves, [we] just [want] to remind people to wear their insect repellent and wear their long-sleeve shirts and pants,” Crown previously told Record-Journal. “It’s tolerable.”

To learn more about mosquito-borne viruses, visit the Mosquito Management Program website.  

Health Equity reporter Cris Villalonga-Vivoni is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. They can be reached at cvillalonga@record-journal.com and 203-317-2448. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re.


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