According to the latest state data released Tuesday, mosquitoes in Chester, Haddam, Hampton, North Stonington, Stonington, Voluntown and Killingworth, have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
Commonly referred to as “Triple-E,” this rare but potentially deadly disease is carried by mosquitoes.
Among the towns mentioned in the report, Killingworth showed an exceptionally high concentration of mosquitoes that tested positive for the virus.
According to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, four out of 33 mosquitoes tested in Killingworth tested positive for the disease, prompting the town to issue a public health alert.
“It’s been something that’s been identified in Connecticut for several years now but right now it seems to be peaking or spiking and so that’s a concern,” said Killingworth Director of Health Paul Hutcheon.
Officials are urging precaution, including avoid being outside around dusk and dawn, wear long sleeves and pants, along with insect repellant. Infectious disease experts say this is the right message to send.
“I think towns are asking people to be very cautious because of the potentially devastating effects consequences that can occur if this virus involves your brain,” said Dr. Virginia Bieluch, chief of infectious disease at the Hospital of Central Connecticut.
Symptoms of the disease mimic the flu, including malaise, fever and headache.
It is however, rare. According to Killingworth health officials no one in Connecticut has been diagnosed with the disease since 2013.
“The good news is, the numbers are relatively low but the disease is a serious illness and if you contract the disease it’s a 30 percent or greater death rate,” added Hutcheon.
First Selectwoman Cathy Iino says the town has been proactive and says they’ve shortened the hours of the town’s transfer station and made recommendations to schools and recreational organizations to limit outside activity. Killingworth’s Rec department has recommended coaches conclude practices by 6:30 p.m.
People in the area are taking this seriously although the reaction has been mixed.
“I might be a little more hesitant to have dinner out on the terrace at night because that’s when I hear they come out,” said Lisa Rollins of Westbrook.
Meanwhile, Jon Norton of Killingworth ate lunch outside today wearing short sleeves, explaining he’s not worried.
“I take care of myself. I take care of my family,” he said, “We use bug spray so I don’t really have a strong reaction to that.”
Killingworth is also suggesting people in their area, including surrounding towns, makes sure to eliminate standing water on their property, where mosquitoes breed.
They also recommend anyone who owns a horse to get it vaccinated, because for a horse the disease is almost 100 percent fatal.