Town resident tests positive for West Nile Virus

The Connecticut Department of Public Health confirmed Tuesday that the town’s first case of a person with West Nile Virus (WNV) this year has been has been diagnosed in an elderly resident.

The individual, between 70 and 79 years of age, became ill in mid August with a fever, headache and neurological symptoms, and has since been hospitalized. The person’s name has not been released.

This is the fifth human case of WNV identified in Connecticut in 2012. The virus has been confirmed in two Stamford residents, a Bridgeport resident and a New Haven resident, all of whom were diagnosed between July and August of this year.

“This case of human illness demonstrates that WNV can cause serious illness and whenever the virus is present, there is a potential for human infection. There will continue to be infected mosquitoes until the first frost so persons, particularly those older than 50 years of age, must take personal protection precautions to avoid mosquito bites when outdoors at any time of day, especially during twilight hours,” said Caroline Calderone Baisley, the town’s director of health said in a press release.

The town is continuing to fight against WNV by conducting a preemptive larviciding program, which includes the treatment of public and private roadway catch basins, public school ground catch basins and other property owned and operated by the town as needed. This year’s program began in June and larvicide will be reapplied every four to six weeks into early fall.

WNV is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito, which becomes infected when it bites a bird carrying the virus. The virus is not spread by person-to-person contact or directly from birds to people. General symptoms occur suddenly between five and 15 days following the bite of an infected mosquito and range from slight fever, headache, rash, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, malaise and eye pain, to the rapid onset of severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, severe muscle weakness, gastrointestinal symptoms, coma or death.

Most people who are bitten by an infected mosquito are able to fight off infection and experience mild or no symptoms at all. In some individuals, including the elderly and persons with compromised immune systems, WNV can cause serious illness that affects the central nervous system.

Denise Savageau, director of the town’s Conservation Commission, said standing water on residents’ properties creates the greatest risk for contracting WNV.

The insects that generally carry the virus, known as “junkyard” mosquitoes, prefer to breed in standing water, which can be found in watering cans, buckets, gutters and numerous other places in residents’ yards.

Much of the “mosquito factory” could be limited if the community were more aware of the effects of standing water, Ms. Savageau said to the Post. In fact, during this time of the year, mosquito larvae develop very rapidly and can be found in standing water as little as seven days after breeding has taken place.

Nevertheless, WNV is something that the town deals with every year and there is no great threat to the community at this time, she said.

The town recommends that residents take several precautions when going outdoors including avoiding outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active, using mosquito repellent, eliminating any standing water on their properties and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

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