This is a busy time for scientists at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, who track human cases of the West Nile Virus, which typically peaks in August and September.
“Last year, EEE virus was a big problem in eastern Connecticut but this year it’s all about West Nile Virus,” said Dr. Philip Armstrong, Director of the Trapping and Testing Program.
Armstrong, who heads up the state’s mosquito testing program, says we can thank mother nature.
While wet weather helps breed certain mosquitoes, this year’s dry summer actually spawned more of these virus-carrying pests in urban and suburban areas.
“This mosquito is usually found in the storm drains that you see on the side of the road, and if we get too much rain they get flushed out,” said Armstrong.
Because of the lag time in testing, all cases identified so far were contracted in August, which means there are likely more cases that just haven’t been tested yet. A Waterbury resident was the first to test positive. Three more human cases were identified this week in Fairfield County, including in Danbury.
“We don’t spray for mosquitoes but we definitely pre-treat all of our areas that we think will develop standing water,” said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton.
Boughton said property owners can also play a part in keeping the virus contained.
“To the extent that they can reduce any standing water on their property that would be very helpful,” Boughton said.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health says all four patients have or are currently recovering.
Health experts say four out of five people infected won’t develop symptoms. Those who do will typically experience headaches and fever, symptoms sometimes associated with the coronavirus. As the viruses worsen they no longer mimic each other.
“Coronavirus is more of a respiratory illness, whereas West Nile virus you won’t have coughing and sneezing associated with it,” explained Armstrong.
West Nile is a neuroinvasive disease causing severe symptoms like tremors, convulsions, and paralysis.
While health experts still encourage people to get outside to lower the risk of getting the coronavirus, they also want everyone mindful to cover up in clothing and to use bug spray -- especially from dusk to dawn.
“Until you get those first full frosts, mosquitoes will continue to be thriving and active,” said Armstrong. “It’s a double-edged sword, certainly with the coronavirus, you may want to maintain your distance and being outdoors is a safer environment for contracting coronavirus where there’s less crowding but it does put you at increased risk for mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases.”
Boughton said he hoped the uptick in cases doesn’t discourage people from going outside.
“People are really on edge through this end of this pandemic, or hopefully it will be the end of the pandemic so the more you can get out and just sort of walk around get out the house the better off we all are,” he said. One silver lining: Armstrong said the dry weather has led to a decrease in the deadly EEE virus, which he does not expect to have the same impact it did last year.