After four diagnosed cases — and three deaths — of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in southeastern Connecticut in 2019, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station is requesting an additional $150,000 from the state to add 15 new mosquito testing locations.
“We would like to add 15 additional sites in the east where we didn’t have a presence this year because we hadn’t seen EEE there before,” said Theodore Andreadis, the director of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. “We are hoping that the funding will be put directly in the budget because otherwise we need to go to legislators to advocate for it. But, we haven’t heard a thing yet from the Governor’s office.”
Andreadis said the sooner the funding is announced the better.
“If we do get the funding we do want to get out there and scout out the area and have an idea of where exactly to put the sites. The trap location is very critical to early detection,” Andreadis said. “It’s our best line of defense.”
In the meantime, the Experiment Station is working with the State Department of Public Health to update the existing EEE response plan, but that work cannot be completed until scientists know whether additional sites will be included in the plan.
“We need this information to finish up this plan,” Andreadis said. “The document will spell out how we respond to EEE in the future. Our course of action needs to be modified after this year.”
The Department of Public Health declined to comment on the need for additional funding requested by the Experiment Station, however, the department credits the Experiment Station efforts as a valuable resource for management of mosquito-borne illnesses.
“I can tell you that the work done by CAES is very valuable for surveillance of mosquito-borne infectious diseases such as EEE and West Nile Virus. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has a long track record of solid, credible scientific research that is critical for state government mosquito management group strategy on how to manage our mosquito population, and deployment of resources,” said Av Harris, the director of communications for the Department of Public Health. “Good Surveillance of infectious disease activity requires the most accurate reading of the data that we can get. Mosquito traps allow us to get an accurate picture geographically of where Connecticut residents are most at risk of exposure to harmful diseases such as EEE.”
According to Andreadis, the commissioners of Public Health and Energy and Environmental Protection have been supportive of his requests in recent conversations.
Despite last year being the worst season on record for EEE, Andreadis said he does not expect the disease to be as prevalent in 2020.
“I am not anticipating as much activity this year, but it will certainly be back. The reason for that is birds serve as the reservoir host for this disease,” Andreadis explained. “I have to assume a lot of birds were exposed to this virus in 2019 and now are immune and can’t serve as host anymore.”
The planning for the 2020 season will begin in earnest at the end of February, Andreadis said.
The Experiment Station will be hosting a workshop to update local and state public health officials on what happened last season and what to plan for in 2020.
According to CAES, mosquitoes testing postive for EEE in 2019, were found in Bethany, Chester, Darien, Groton, East Lyme, Haddam, Hampton, Killingworth, Ledyard, Lyme, Madison, Middlefield, Monroe, North Stonington, Old Lyme, Plainfield, Shelton, South Windsor, Stamford, Stonington, Voluntown, and Waterford.