In Irene's Wake, an Increased Threat of West Nile Virus

Standing water left by overflowing waterways serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

There will be remnants of Hurricane Irene’s destruction lingering throughout Fairfield County for weeks.

Some are obvious, such as downed power lines accompanied with the anguished questions of " ’’ There are also dozens packed in libraries and Starbucks coffee shops searching for an outlet and wireless connection to their laptops.

Others are subtle, like bodies of standing water—from widespread marshes to birdbaths—that gradually recede, but leave behind the larvae that spawns thousands of mosquitoes with many bearing the .

At a time of year when the virus is most prevalent, the condition is exacerbated by the amount of water left by Irene. It will stay this way until the weather cools at the end of the month, or unless action is taken to kill mosquitoes or drain their breeding areas.

"The combination of standing water and warm temperatures make it ideal for mosquitoes,’’ said Theresa Argondezzi, . "That’s part of the concern over the recent hurricane with all this water. They are more likely to breed, and that’s now an issue.’’

There has been , right here in Fairfield County—a woman in a was treated and released—15 towns in the state have mosquitoes areas that tested positive: Bridgeport, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Hamden, Litchfield, New Britain, New Canaan, Orange, Stamford, Stratford, Westport and Woodbridge.

The State of Connecticut Mosquito Management Program has a network of 91 mosquito-trapping stations in 72 communities. After a location tests positive, the health department in that municipality is notified. It is up to the town to determine the course of action, which usually begins with a notice on its website and could lead to spraying, although that’s a last resort which no community has opted to take.

Greenwich, Darien, Norwalk and New Canaan are among those towns with posted updates on the virus. Greenwich posted as early as June informing what precautions the public should take this summer.

"We continue to find mosquitoes infected with West Nile in more locations in lower Fairfield County,’’ said Dr. Theodore Andreadis, Chief Medical Entomologist, Connecticut Mosquito Management Program.

"There’s a high level of detection along the I-95 corridor, which is densely populated. We will see this for the next few weeks until the weather starts to cool.’’

Andreadis said those over 50 and with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable. Once bitten, symptoms could appear within four days in the form of fever, body aches, fatigue and headaches, much like the flu. Left untreated, the disease can lead to inflammation in the spinal cord, coma and death.

Since 1999, there have been over 30,000 reported cases in the United States and 1,000 fatalities, with three in Connecticut, the last being in New Haven in 2006.

There is no human vaccine, although Andreadis said there is one for horses. Antibiotics aren’t effective and treatment is symptomatic. The virus is carried by birds to the mosquitoes with the most prevalent being the robin. The disease is not contagious among humans and household pets seem immune.

Spraying is not the recommended form of control, said David Knauf, , because there are several limitations.

"You can’t spray the whole state,’’ Knauf said. "If you spray in Darien and the wind blows, you’re not only losing the spray, but it could go into a community that doesn’t want spraying. This is not something that can be contained within town limits.’’

The county’s town websites offered uniform advice, such as insect repellents and wearing long sleeves, especially at dusk, and attacking breeding sites by draining standing water in flower pots, wading pools, birdbaths and puddles.

Dr. David M. Reed, , said on the town’s website that community would treat catch basins with VectoLex CG, an insecticide directly applied to larger standing water areas such as marshes.

Since West Nile is an annual threat like ticks. This is something the area has adapted to, but will need a little more adjusting this time because there’s more water than usual.

Marc Vogel, owner of in Stamford, which his grandfather opened 86 years ago, has not seen a run on repellent.

"There was a lot of buzz with people freaking out when this came out about 10 years ago,’’ said Fogel. "But, it is so rare. I don’t see any difference this year.’’

Besides, there are other things to worry about, such as the next hurricane.


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