Second mosquito trapping site in town tests positive for West Nile Virus

The Connecticut Department of Public Health has confirmed that a second mosquito trapping site in town has tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV).

This comes on the heels of last week’s revelation that a second Greenwich resident was infected with the virus, prompting officials to call for restricted hours at local parks, golf courses and restaurants.

In addition to confirming WNV at the second trapping site, located at a station in Mianus River Park off of Cognewaugh Road, the state confirmed a third positive case in Stamford, creating a total of 14 human cases found in the state this year.

“This positive pool of mosquitoes demonstrates that WNV continues to present a serious risk to human health when it becomes intensified in the community,” town Director of Health Caroline Baisley said. “These results show that the virus is still spreading in mosquito pools. Therefore, all residents in these areas must apply personal protection to avoid mosquito bites when outdoors, especially before dawn and dusk.”

As we move into the fall months, the weather will become cooler in the evening until early morning towards daylight, and the mosquito population will naturally decline. However, historically it is not until the first frost that mosquitoes infected with WNV become completely non-threatening.

“As long as mosquitoes remain active there remains a risk of infection,” Ms. Baisley said. “Mosquitoes infected with WNV are still testing positive from the collection site in the Old Greenwich/Riverside area. With the third case in Stamford and continued positive mosquito pools in both Greenwich and Stamford, there remains a very high risk to human health for WNV infection. Therefore, to protect the public’s health against this disease, some restrictive measures must be put into place. Human illness and deaths associated with WNV infection are totally preventable if the right measures of protection are put into place. This not only means individual protection but public health intervention.”

WNV is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito, which becomes infected when it bites a bird carrying the virus. WNV 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 by 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 infected mosquitos are able to fight off infection and experience mild or no symptoms at all. However, for some individuals, including the elderly and persons with compromised immune systems, WNV can cause serious illness that affects the central nervous system. In a minority of infected persons, especially those over 50 years old, WNV can cause serious illness, including encephalitis and meningitis. Infection can lead to death in 3% to 15% of persons with severe forms of the illness.

In order to reduce the level of risk of acquiring WNV in the community, all facilities public and private in the Old Greenwich/Riverside area and now the greater North Mianus area of Greenwich are being asked to cooperate with a mandatory restriction of managing hours of outdoor operation for activities that involve the public. The restriction requires all parks, playgrounds, golf courses and other areas that support public gatherings and public recreation activities to close half an hour before dusk and open no earlier than half an hour after sunrise.

In addition, all food service establishments that offer outside dining should discontinue this service half an hour before dusk, unless the area is screened appropriately, to prevent exposing patrons to mosquitos.

“These restrictions will only be temporary as the environmental conditions within the community will change,” Ms. Baisley explained. “As the mosquito population declines, so will the WNV infection activity. As a result, the rate of human exposure to the virus will lessen.”

She also urged residents not to camp outdoors, to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, use mosquito repellent according to the manufacturer’s directions on the label, cover arms and legs of children playing outdoors and cover playpens or carriages with mosquito netting.

Residents should also continue to get rid of standing water on their property, chlorinate their pools and empty wading pools when not in use, change the water in birdbaths daily and keep grass cut short and shrubbery and well trimmed around the house so adult mosquitoes cannot hide there.

The town’s Mosquito Management Brochure is available throughout the community and on the town’s website at greenwichct.org.

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