Connecticut has confirmed the first human case of Eastern equine encephalitis in the state since 2013, health officials announced Monday.
State Department of Public Health experts said that an adult from East Lyme tested positive for the virus, which is usually transmitted from infected mosquitoes. The resident became ill during the last week of August and remains hospitalized.
“EEE is a rare but serious and potentially fatal disease that can affect people of all ages,” DPH Commissioner Renée Coleman Mitchell said in a statement. “Using insect repellent, covering bare skin and avoiding being outdoors from dusk to dawn are effective ways to help keep you from being bitten by mosquitoes.”
States in the Northeast are on alert this summer as mosquitoes in swampy and other areas have tested positive for EEE, which appears in the region every couple years and can cause serious illness. About a third of patients die and many of the survivors have mild to severe brain damage, according to health experts.
Up until now, only mosquitoes, horses and birds in Connecticut have tested positive for EEE, particularly in towns of eastern Connecticut. This is the first time a person has been diagnosed with EEE in Connecticut since 2013, and that case was fatal.
It takes four to 10 days after a bite from an infected mosquito to develop symptoms, which include can include sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. It can progress to disorientation, seizures and coma.
On average, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about seven people in the country get EEE annually, so the disease continues to be rare in humans.
DPH advises residents to avoid trips to mosquito breeding grounds like marshes or swamps. Officials recommend that people limit their time outside between dusk and dawn, when mosquito activity is high. Wearing long clothing and insect repellant can also help avoid a bite.
Although Connecticut public health officials are continuing to detect EEE in mosquitoes and animals, they said the numbers are declining and the state doesn’t have an excessive level of activity currently seen in Massachusetts. The first heavy frost sometime this fall should kill most mosquitoes and the diseases they carry, public health officials said.
Anyone who thinks they may be infected with EEE should seek medical care immediately.