An East Haddam resident is the third person in Connecticut to die of Eastern equine encephalitis, health officials said Tuesday.
A fourth person – a Colchester resident between the ages of 40 and 49 – has been diagnosed with the disease and is hospitalized. An unusually long, warmer summer may be triggering the spread of the mosquito-borne illness, experts have said.
The East Haddam resident was between the ages of 60 and 69. Two others – a person from East Lyme and a resident of Old Lyme – died in September. Officials said they both were elderly.
“Sadly, this has been an unprecedented year for EEE activity in Connecticut,” said Matthew Cartter, the state epidemiologist. “We have had four human cases of EEE, three of which were fatal … All four residents live in a part of eastern Connecticut where EEE activity has not been a problem before this summer.”
While the disease has been most prevalent in Southeastern Connecticut, mosquitos in South Windsor recently tested positive for EEE. Town and school officials across the state have been canceling or rescheduling after-hours activities, sports practices and games.
About one-third of the people who contract EEE die, experts say, and about half of those who survive have significant brain damage.
Symptoms include high fever, headache, fatigue, nausea and neck stiffness.
State leaders are advising people to stay inside during the early evening and at dusk, to wear protective clothing and to use insect repellant. The Connecticut Department of Transportation has posted warnings about the disease on electronic highway signs.
A group of lawmakers last week asked Gov. Ned Lamont to expand the state’s use of pesticides in places with high EEE activity.
Environmental workers in several Eastern Connecticut towns sprayed pesticides over the summer, and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has done ground spraying in some areas with high concentrations of mosquitos, including at Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown.
Nationally, at least 28 people have been infected with the disease in 2019, ABC News reported. That’s more than any year since the CDC began keeping track and exceeds the previous record of 21 cases in 2005.
Deaths have occurred in Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.