Greenwich fights mosquitoes after detecting West Nile virus
GREENWICH — After a mosquito trapped near the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center tested positive for the West Nile virus, the town said its larvicide program is continuing in an effort to keep the blood-sucking insects at bay.
The frequent rain and hot, muggy conditions this summer are perfect for mosquitoes to breed, which means residents must be vigilant about protecting themselves against bites and the town must take steps to limit the insects’ population, town health officials said.
The town runs a preemptive larviciding program that includes treating catch basins on public and private roadways and on the grounds of public schools as well as at other town-owned properties as needed. The applications of larvicide began in June and is reapplied every four to six weeks.
“Controlling the mosquito population in the larval stage through the application of larvicide has been found to be a prudent action,” town Director of Health Caroline Calderone Baisley said. “However, this measure only helps to reduce the mosquito population, not eliminate it.”
Mosquitoes breed in standing water, including in discarded tires, gutters, pool and boat covers, and catch basins as well as swamps and ponds. Town Director of Environmental Services Michael Long said every resident should check their property for standing water and drain it before it becomes a mosquito-breeding ground.
“Although the town’s larvicide program treats catch basins, the general public must be vigilant in eliminating standing water on their own properties and protecting themselves from biting mosquitoes at all times,” Long said. “The highest risk of exposure to West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes is during the months of August and September.”
Trash containers should be covered, and the water in birdbaths should be changed daily. The water in pools should be chlorinated, and wading pools should be empty when not in use.
The town is also warning residents to avoid mosquitoes — and therefore avoid exposure to the virus, which in its worst cases can be fatal to humans.
Luckily, the town Department of Health said, most people who are exposed can fight off the infection. And of those who come down with West Nile, most experience only mild, flu-like symptoms.
Those most at risk are the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. The West Nile virus can affect the central nervous system, causing encephalitis or meningitis.
Last year in Connecticut, 23 human cases of West Nile virus were identified. None of the cases were fatal.
The Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station monitors mosquito pools throughout the state. So far this summer, infected mosquitoes have also been captured in Chester, East Haven, Groton, Manchester, New Haven, North Haven, North Stonington, South Windsor, Stamford, West Haven and Wethersfield.
To avoid mosquito bites, precautions include avoiding outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are the most active, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors and using mosquito repellent. For safety, wash any skin that has been treated with repellent when returning indoors.
The West Nile virus cannot be spread by person-to-person contact. Humans become infected by the bite of an infected mosquito, which gets the virus from biting an infected bird.
Symptoms can occur suddenly between five and 15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. They include a slight fever, headache, rash, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, malaise and eye pain. In more severe cases, symptoms include the rapid onset of severe headaches, high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, severe muscle weakness and gastrointestinal upset.
In rare cases, the virus can even cause coma or death.
For information, on the State of Connecticut Mosquito Trapping and Arbovirus Testing Program, visit https://portal.ct.gov/CAES/Mosquito-Testing/Introductory/State-of-Connecticut-Mosquito-Trapping-and-Arbovirus-Testing-Program
For more information on mosquitoes and the threat of the West Nile virus, visit the state’s Mosquito Management Program at https://portal.ct.gov/mosquito.