NEWINGTON- A town resident has been diagnosed with West Nile virus, prompting a response from the Central Connecticut Health District.
District Director Charles Brown sat before the Town Council at its last meeting and updated it on the issue.
“This is the first human case in Newington since 1994 when we started keeping records,” Brown said. “In Connecticut, we see a few human cases every year. It’s really an opportunity to remind people how to protect themselves.”
The Newington resident is one of two in the state this year to test positive for the mosquito-borne virus. The other lives in Fairfield, in coastal Connecticut, where West Nile virus-associated illnesses are much more common.
Both victims are between 60 and 79, according to health officials, and both were hospitalized for encephalitis, brain inflammation caused by the virus and similar viruses.
“Most cases are around urban centers in Fairfield and New Haven counties,” Brown explained.
But that doesn’t make Central Connecticut immune. Mosquitoes carrying the virus were captured in Wethersfield before the two human cases were announced.
Several state departments run the Mosquito Management Program, which operates 91 trapping stations in 72 municipalities. There is one on Goff Road in Wethersfield and another in Churchill Park in Newington.
“Newington has one of two test sites in the health district’s towns,” Brown said. “There have not been any positive indications there yet this year.”
He encouraged residents to be proactive by eliminating areas on their properties where the insects commonly breed, in pools of standing water.
“Take a walk once a week and reduce breeding places,” he said. “It can really have an impact on the community as a whole.”
Wheelbarrows, roof gutters, wading pools, bird baths and planters should be turned over or cleaned regularly.
When the illness first started emerging in the region back in the late 1990s, it caused some hysteria before anyone knew much about it.
“You’d get people bringing dead crows into the Health Department,” Brown said.
“The good thing about West Nile is that 80 percent of people who get it never show symptoms.”
Fewer people will get a fever and the vast minority – 1 in 150 – develop a more serious illness that can prove fatal. There have been three CT fatalities attributed to the virus since it first emerged.
State officials say this summer’s humidity is partly to blame for the increase in WNV-positive mosquitoes.
“We continue to have weather conditions that are favorable for the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus,” said Dr. Philip Armstrong, medical entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, which maintains testing sites. “These mosquitoes are most abundant in urban and suburban areas with dense human populations.”
According to the most recent CAES results, 201,958 mosquitoes have been collected and tested so far this year. Of those 140 tested positive for WNV.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.