Four West Nile Virus cases so far, but more are likely

Public health officials have reported two new cases of West Nile virus, bringing the number of cases in Connecticut this month to four.

The new cases in Stamford and Bridgeport follow a trend of outbreaks along the shoreline and come on the heels of cases in New Haven and Stamford. The newest cases, reported Thursday, involved patients aged 50 to 59. In all four cases, the patients were hospitalized and survived.

The cases come as the United States deals with the largest outbreak of the virus in its history. Surprisingly, this is not the highest number of cases in Connecticut – so far. Last year, the state reported nine cases.

“Actually the Connecticut experience falls in line with our experiences over the last decade,” state Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen said.

The combination of a mild winter, an early and long spring, and a hot, humid summer with thunderstorms created the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes and the virus, said Theodore Andreadis, chief medical entomologist for the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

Andreadis said the mosquito population has slightly dwindled, but he still expects more cases to be reported before the season ends. Generally there is a one- or two-week lag from the time the patients have initial symptoms to the time the cases are reported.

“We’re not out of the woods yet. The weather we are experiencing now is still quite favorable for mosquitoes,” he said.

Andreadis, who directs the mosquito testing and trapping program for the state, has found high numbers of infected mosquitoes along the I-95 corridor from New Haven to Greenwich and up the Connecticut River Valley into greater Hartford.

“The good news is things seem to be on the wane, but we’re still at a level where there is reason to be concerned,” Andreadis said.

He predicts that ongoing climate change could mean more West Nile outbreaks in the future in Connecticut and the rest of the United States.

Currently the virus is sweeping the United States, with Texas being particularly hard hit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 38 states had human cases of the disease as of Tuesday. Of the 1,118 people with the virus, 41 died. Seventy-five percent of the cases in the United States are concentrated in Texas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

There are two types of West Nile virus. The milder form causes fever, headache, nausea, light-headedness – generally flu-like symptoms. The more severe type has neurological involvement, with extreme fever, headache, muscle weakness, polio-like conditions and tremors.

The best prevention is to stay inside or use a repellent particularly during the dawn, dusk and early evening when the highest mosquito-biting activity occurs, Andreadis said.