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West Nile found in mosquito trapped in Old Greenwich

July 24, 2018

GREENWICH — Town officials are on the alert after a mosquito trapped near the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center in Old Greenwich tested positive for the West Nile Virus, the first such case found in town this year.

The presence of the virus in mosquitoes does not automatically mean humans will contract it or, even if they do, that their health will be at risk. But the town is urging residents to be cautious and take common sense steps to protect themselves from mosquitoes.

Precautions include avoiding outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are the most active, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors and using mosquito repellent according to the label’s instructions. For safety, people should wash skin that has been treated with repellent when they return indoors and avoid using repellants with DEET on infants and small children.

According to the town Department of Health, most people who get West Nile virus do not know they have it because the symptoms are typically minor. Sometimes people do not show any symptoms at all as their bodies fight off the infection. However, the virus can be a serious health risk, particularly for the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

Town Director of Environmental Services Michael Long said muggy, rainy stretches of weather, like the one currently making life uncomfortable in southern Connecticut, and predicted to last into next week, are times to be particularly cautious.

“It’s a fairly low infection rate but there are things people can do to reduce the infection rate even more,” Long said.

Parents and caregivers are also urged to cover the arms and legs of children playing outdoors and cover playpens or carriages with mosquito netting.

Additionally, for anyone camping it is not advised they set up camp near stagnant or standing water.

People can cut down on mosquito populations by eliminating standing water on their properties. Trash containers should be covered and the water in birdbaths should be changed daily.

Property owners with ponds and other stagnant water bodies that do not support fish, frogs or other amphibians that eat mosquito larvae, can treat them with biological agents. Before doing so, however, a property owner should contact the Department of Health at 203-622-7836 or 203-987-1001.

In 2017, there were three reported cases of West Nile Virus in humans in Connecticut and none were fatal. No cases of humans with the virus have been reported so far in 2018.

The town is in the middle of an ongoing program to reduce mosquito populations on public land.

“The general public must be vigilant in eliminating standing water on their own properties and protecting themselves from biting mosquitoes at all times,” Long said. “It is important to recognize that the highest risk of exposure to West Nile Virus-infected mosquitoes is during the months of August and September.”

Symptoms can occur suddenly between five to 15 days after a person is bit by an infected mosquito. Mild symptoms can include a slight fever, headaches, a rash, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, malaise and eye pain. More severe problems caused by West Nile can include severe headaches, high fevers, a stiff neck, disorientation, severe muscle weakness and gastrointestinal symptoms. In cases it can even cause coma or death.

According to the state’s Mosquito Management Program, mosquitoes carrying the virus already have been found in Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Bridgeport, Easton, Stratford, Waterbury and West Haven. Testing of trapped mosquitoes will continue through October throughout the state including at three locations in Greenwich, the civic center, Lake Avenue and the Mianus River Park.

The town has undertaken a preemptive larvicide program, treating public and private roadway catch basins.

“Controlling the mosquito population in the larval stage through the application of larvicide has been found to be a prudent action,” said town Director of Health Caroline Calderone Baisley. “However, this measure only helps to reduce the mosquito population, not eliminate it. The recent warm weather and periodic rain events have increased the ability for mosquitoes to breed. Residents are encouraged to protect themselves whenever they are outdoors.”

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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