The threat of EEE is nearly passed this year, though look for a possible re-emergence in the spring.
“It’s cold, so mosquito activity is declining,” said Philip Armstrong, director of the Connecticut Mosquito Surveillance Program at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. “The risk is exceedingly low for mosquito-borne illness.”
The threat of Eastern Equine Encephalitis — called EEE or “triple E” — is not done for well and good. Armstrong explained that the mosquito population “will significantly decline when night time temperatures are below 50 degrees,” but it takes a freeze to really knock them out for the year.
“The peak risk for the triple E virus is based on the abundance of virus-carrying mosquitoes,” he said. “We need a hard frost, temperatures well below 30 degrees fahrenheit.”
Three people died this year from EEE in Connecticut, and mosquitoes tested positive for the virus as far south as Shelton.
“Sadly, this has been an unprecedented year for EEE activity in Connecticut,” said Dr. Matthew Cartter, the DPH State Epidemiologist in a news release earlier this month. “Before this year we have had only one human case of EEE in Connecticut, and that was in 2013.”
For every 10 people who contract the disease, three will die, according to the state. There is no cure, and no human vaccine.
“This was an extraordinary year,” Armstrong said. On average, six human cases of EEE are reported annually across the country.
Once the ground freezes, the threat of EEE will be over for the year, but it may come back with the spring.
Armstrong said strains of EEE come in waves. He said he expects “high levels of virus activity for a couple successive years,” though he does not foresee next year to be as bad as this year.
The disease is transmitted year round, in Florida, and new strains arrive in Connecticut thanks to migratory birds.
But “mosquito activity will fluctuate with the temperatures,” Armstrong said. So when the summer is hotter and wetter than usual, you can expect to see more mosquitoes and more mosquito-borne illness.
“What kind of summer we have, that’s probably the biggest factor,” he said.