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State Starts Testing Summer Mosquitoes For Viruses

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Summer is finally here and so are mosquitoes, something Ryan Gardner already observed.

“We noticed last night or two nights ago that in the backyard that they were starting to bite, unfortunately,” joked Gardner, who was watching his daughter play soccer at a park in New Haven on Tuesday.

The biting bugs are no laughing matter to Dr. Theodore Andreadis and his crew at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

They started their annual mosquito monitoring program on Tuesday, collecting and categorizing about 4,000 specimens. They’ll be tested for viruses that deadly to humans.

“Eastern Equine Encephalitis is especially serious. It’s the most dangerous of all mosquito-borne viruses in the United States. The case fatality rate is about 30 percent,” said Andreadis. “With regard to West Nile virus, we know that in the state, we’ve had over 100 human cases and unfortunately we’ve had three fatalities.”

Andreadis says some 200,000 mosquitoes will filter through his labs by summer’s end. They’ll be trapped at 91 different locations around Connecticut.

“Historically, most of the activity is along the I-95 corridor and up through the Greater Hartford area and it’s principally located in our urban and suburban settings,” Andreadis said.

The insects like to breed in storm drains and catch basins, but they won’t cause problems in our cities just yet.

“We wouldn’t anticipate finding any viruses this early in the season, but we like to get some background data so when we do pick it up, we know exactly what’s happening,” said Andreadis.

In the meantime, he said to get rid of standing water.

“Any old bird baths, or containers, you want to empty these, just empty them onto the ground because they can serve as major production sites for these mosquitoes,” Andreadis said.

He proudly calls the CAES mosquito surveillance program “comprehensive” and said they have the collecting, sorting and testing of mosquitoes “down to a science.”

Scientists did have a scare last summer with high EEE concentrations in mosquitoes tested at the Mount Misery campground.  The area was shut down for several weeks to keep humans from getting infected.

Connecticut is the only state in the Northeast without a confirmed human case of EEE to date.

Andreadis said scientists plan to pay special attention to that location this summer.

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