OLD LYME — A second Connecticut resident, this time from Old Lyme, died from Eastern Equine Encephalitis, according to the Governor’s office today.
“This is a serious public health concern, we wanted to let you know that these are the first deaths from EEE that have been reported,” said Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz at a press conference on Tuesday.
The individual’s family reached out to the Connecticut Department of Health this morning asking for the department to continue to share the message of precaution when it comes to outdoor activities at dawn and dusk, said Renee Coleman-Mitchell, the commissioner of the Department of Public Health.
“This morning I received an email from a family member from the person who passed away from EEE. The family felt very compelled that we as a department and state share this information: use repellant, cover bare skin and decrease the amount of time we are outside an hour before dusk and dawn,” Coleman-Mitchell said.
Bysiewicz acknowledged that people across the state are concerned about the outbreak, but urged the public not to panic.
“If you get bitten by a mosquito, there is no need to seek medical care. If you were to develop symptoms such as a high fever, stiff neck, headache – these are quite severe – then obviously seek medical care. A mosquito bite itself is not dangerous,” said Phil Armstrong, a mosquito researcher from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. “We have to collect thousands and thousands of mosquitos to detect the virus. I don’t want people to be terrified or not leave their house, but just don’t go overnight camping, it’s not a good idea. If you are a hunter or you spend a lot of time in the swamp habitats then definitely you’d want to avoid those activities altogether.”
The virus is concentrated in Middlesex and New London Counties, but the mosquito population has begun to decline as the first frost approaches.
“The number of mosquitos is declining, but the risk is out there,” Armstrong said “When we hear about the human cases there is always a lag. They may have been exposed three weeks earlier. The risk three weeks ago is very different than the risk now, but there is still risk so continue to be proactive.”
Despite the declining risk, state epidemiologist Matthew Carter said the unusual season is cause for concern at today’s press conference.
“We’ve known about EEE since 1938 and there were no human cases between that time and 2013. In Connecticut we haven’t seen anything like this since 1996,” Carter said.