NEW LONDON, CT — It is over. Go outside at dusk and don’t worry, public health officials said Thursday.
In a press release, the Chatham, Ledge Light and Uncas health districts, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, announced they are no longer recommending restrictions on outdoor activities.
“It has been determined that the risk of Eastern equine encephalitis transmission from mosquitoes to humans has been greatly reduced; it has now been over a month since a mammal-biting mosquito infected with EEE has been found in southeastern Connecticut,” the statement reads.
“Based on this information, we are no longer recommending any restrictions on outdoor activities,” the statement from a consortium of public health officials read.
New London Mayor Michael Passero rescinded the citywide restriction of no city-sponsored or supervised outdoor activities on city properties past 5:30 pm. And that includes the city’s Halloween event which had been moved indoors but was moved back outside after the announcement today. In a statement, Passero’s office said that New London’s annual Halloween event set for Friday Oct. 25 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. will be held outdoors at the downtown waterfront at City Pier.
“Moving the event back to the waterfront will allow for additional room and enhanced security for the large crowds of children expected. Anyone that proceeds to the Garde Arts in error will be directed to the waterfront. It remains the intent of the city and sponsors to have a very enjoyable and safe environment and experience for the children of the community.”
And Ledyard mayor Fred Allyn III took the Facebook, sharing a photo of a mosquito, saying, “This is the last time you will see our EEE mosquito here this year!”
Effective immediately, Ledgelight and DPH have lifted the recommendation to avoid dusk and dawn activities for the remainder of this fall. Still suggested is long sleeves and bug spray but it appears the mosquito population has seriously declined- a very good thing,” he noted.
What began this summer, the omnipresent threat of the deadly virus, claimed lives.
On Oct. 1, state health officials confirmed that an East Haddam resident was the third Connecticut resident to die from EEE. And, at the time, the CDC has also confirmed EEE to be the cause of illness for a resident of Colchester who became ill during the third week of August and who remains hospitalized. An East Lyme resident and an Old Lyme resident died as a result of the virus.
The state health department epidemiologist called it an “unprecedented year for EEE activity in Connecticut.” Before now, there had been only one human case of EEE in Connecticut, and that was in 2013.
That same official said the people who died, all from eastern Connecticut were most likely exposed to infected mosquitoes sometime between August 11, 2019 and September 8, 2019. He said previously “EEE activity has not been a problem before this summer.”
Earlier this month, Patch spoke to Dr. Theodore Andreadis of the CT Agricultural Experiment Station who said this year’s “major outbreak” might be mitigated next year with additional funding to increase the mosquito monitoring program.
With trapping, he said, there’s “very few surprises: we can almost always detect the virus.” But this year has been “unusual because we didn’t have a presence in that vicinity,” he said, referring to areas near the Lymes, Montville, Salem, and Colchester.
He said CAES is “looking to increase our testing and trapping program and add new locations” and will ask the governor for “more funding to increase trapping.”
He said then the areas in and around the Lymes were suspect. The first reported death was that of Patrica Shaw, of East Lyme, who was 77.
Not completely out of the woods until the first hard frost
Health officials offered a caution in the statement: “Although the risk of EEE transmission will not be eliminated until we experience a hard frost, the likelihood of human infection is extremely low.”
Residents should continue to use personal protective measures, including the use of an EPA-approved insect repellent, and wearing long sleeves and pants if a significant amount of time is spent outdoors. Residents should also avoid hiking or camping in swampy areas until the first hard frost occurs.