By Ed Harris
Local health officials are asking residents to remain vigilant about mosquitoes, citing their ability to spread disease.
There are over 2,500 species of mosquitoes worldwide, with 49 species calling Connecticut home. Not every species of mosquitoes bite, and when they do, it is only the females. Less than half of the mosquitoes found in state are considered pests, according to the Connecticut Mosquito Management Program.
Mosquitoes pick up diseases when they feed on the blood of animals, including humans.
The insects are capable of carrying a multitude of diseases, with West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) viruses among the most troublesome.
Shane Lockwood, director of the Plainville and Southington Health District, said mosquitoes typically test positive for West Nile and EEE in early August through mid-September.
“People need to take precautions all summer long,” Lockwood warned however.
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) coordinates the mosquito trapping and testing program in the state.
There are 91 testing stations in the state, including one in Southington.
The testing stations are often located next to marshes and use dry ice to entice mosquitoes. Mosquitoes caught in the traps are collected and tested every two weeks. Officials are typically told within two or three days if a mosquito tests positive for a disease.
Lockwood said there were no confirmed cases of West Nile or EEE in the area in recent memory.
The state began testing for West Nile and EEE in early June. Test results thus far are negative.
Last year saw the first confirmed human case of EEE in Connecticut. According to a release from the State of Connecticut Mosquito Management Program, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that an adult resident of eastern Connecticut tested positive for EEE.
The resident had been hospitalized for encephalitis and died last fall. The resident had been tested for West Nile, but not EEE.
A physician had asked for further testing and the EEE infection was diagnosed post mortem.
“While rare, EEE is serious and underscores the importance of taking personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites,” Connecticut Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen said in a release from the Connecticut Mosquito Management Program. “The presence of this virus in Connecticut should also remind clinicians to include EEE, along with WNV [West Nile virus], among their possible diagnoses so that appropriate tests can be done.”
According to the release from the Connecticut Mosquito Management Program, most cases of EEE occur in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states. However, last year, there was a significant increase in EEE circulation in the eastern portion of the state.
Mosquitoes, a horse and pheasant flocks tested positive for the virus in Haddam, Hampton, North Stonington, Plainfield and Voluntown. All the animals died from the EEE infections.
According to the release, there were 22 towns that had mosquitoes test positive for West Nile. Of those towns, Wallingford was the closest positive test to the Southington and Plainville area.
No fatalities were reported due to West Nile last year in Connecticut.
“You could have had it in the past and not known about it,” Lockwood said of West Nile.
Lockwood said those with compromised immune systems, including the young and elderly, are most susceptible to West Nile.
Officials urge residents to take precautions against mosquitoes. This includes netting, various forms of repellents and wearing long clothing when mosquitoes are most active.
Residents are also urged to reduce the amount of standing water that they have at their homes, as this is where mosquitoes breed.
This includes kid’s pools, recycling bins, gutters and other areas where water can build up.
“Don’t get complacent with it,” Lockwood said of mosquito protection.
For more info on mosquitoes and the Connecticut Mosquito Management Program visit ct.gov/mosquito.
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