With approaching warmer temperatures, public health officials in the region are ramping up surveillance efforts to deal with mosquitoes carrying both West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE. Dr. Catherine Brown, a veterinarian with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, says mosquitoes carrying West Nile and EEE generally begin to show up on animals like horses and birds around July, with human cases being reported in late August and into September. She says complex environmental factors make it difficult to forecast how prevalent the viruses will be this year. But Brown says a robust monitoring program will begin in mid-June to track infected mosquitoes as they emerge.
“While we can’t really rely necessarily on animal cases of either disease as indications of risk, by being able to trap and test mosquitoes every single week, people will know when and where the highest risk exists. And then they can take the appropriate precautions to protect themselves from getting mosquito bites.”
Both viruses attack the central nervous system and can cause permanent disability and death. 33 human West Nile cases were identified in Massachusetts last year, the most ever recorded in one season. Brown says fatalities are not reported to the DPH, but there was at least one from West Nile. Seven human cases of EEE were also reported last year, with 3 known deaths. Connecticut’s trapping and testing program is slated to begin next week and continue through October. 21 human cases of West Nile were reported last year, all but two were in the state’s southern counties. None were fatal and, according to the state’s mosquito management program, there has not been a documented human case of EEE in Connecticut.