OLD LYME — Rather than spraying pesticides, the town is asking residents to take extra precautions against mosquitoes that carry the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus, following the deaths of two residents from Old Lyme and East Lyme during the last month.
First Selectman Bonnie Reemsnyder said by phone Wednesday that the town will not spray pesticides to kill mosquitoes because the Department of Public Health has advised the town that spraying is not an effective solution.
“The mosquito population is going to be in the dense woods, in the shade. Yes, they will come out at night, but you really have to do the spraying in dense woods and the DPH is just saying it’s not going to be effective,” she said. “The numbers are going down. The best protection is going to be get inside by 5:30 and if you have to be outside, use mosquito repellant, cover your body, that sort of thing — that really is going to reduce your risk the most.”
Reemsnyder said that spraying could also provide residents with a false sense of security. “I would be afraid that spraying is going to give people a comfort level and that’s really not there,” she said. “The best protection is to be indoors, we’re saying after 5:30.”
Stephen Mansfield, executive director of Ledge Light Health District, the regional health service serving Old Lyme, said the agency does not provide spraying for mosquitoes as a service.
“The decision is up to the individual municipality. The reason behind that is that obviously we’re a multi-jurisdictional agency. We cover 11 municipalities and we can’t provide one service in one town and not another,” he said.
He noted that mosquitoes carrying EEE are a freshwater type, and that mosquitoes breeding in saltwater do not appear to be carrying the virus.
“That’s what we’ve seen so far this year, the only mosquitoes that carry EEE are the ones that breed in freshwater, so that’s why my recommendation is avoid freshwater swamps and so forth and woodsy areas where those freshwater mosquitoes that can carry EEE breed,” Mansfield said.
Some areas of Old Lyme have tested positive for the virus, but the numbers are diminishing, said Reemsnyder.
“They did some trapping this week and once they tested them they did get some hits on EEE on the what they call mammalian-biting mosquitoes … and they are the nighttime mosquitoes. There are some hits, but they expected it because they did have a death in Old Lyme, so it wasn’t a surprise,” she said. “When you have hits in Stonington and Killingworth, it’s really southeastern Connecticut — regionally we’ve had some hits and we should all be taking precautions.”
Reemsnyder said the town may ask the police force to check the parks and outdoor areas to make sure people are inside at dusk. She said that she went to Hains Park and Town Woods earlier Wednesday evening to make sure people were not outside.
“I took a ride around. I’ve been doing it when I can. If I see people outside I tell them to go home,” she said.
The risk will last until the first frost, Reemsnyder said.
“I hate to say it but we’re all going to pray for winter, and I don’t want to do that, but just a good frost will be the thing that really helps us,” she said.
Ledge Light is scheduled to provide updated information Thursday morning.