The West Nile virus may have claimed its first human victim in Connecticut, state health officials announced Wednesday.
The victim was an elderly East Haven resident over 90 years old who began showing neurologic symptoms in September and died in mid-October. State officials are awaiting confirmation tests from the Centers for Disease Control, but have called the death a “probable” case of the disease.
The death brings the number of human cases in the state to six this year. Of the previous cases, four have been released from the hospital, and the other remains hospitalized.
Health officials would not release the victim’s name, gender or exact age.
West Nile is spread by mosquitoes, which contract it by feeding on infected birds and spread it by biting humans or other animals. The virus can be deadly in the elderly or in individuals with compromised immune systems. In most cases, people who get infected exhibit flu-like symptoms with a fever, headache and stiff joints, which goes away after a few days. It cannot be transmitted between humans.
Also Wednesday, the state Department of Environmental Protection said mosquitoes trapped last week in Haddam tested positive for West Nile, and mosquitoes trapped in East Haven and North Branford were positive for the more serious Eastern Equine Encephalitis. No human cases of EEE have ever been recorded in Connecticut.
With temperatures beginning to fall statewide, the risk of the disease is “close to zero,” said Dr. Matthew Cartter, assistant state epidemiologist.
Nationwide this year, 25 people have been infected with West Nile and one West Nile death has been confirmed. Ten people have died from the virus since 1999.
This season in Connecticut, more than 124,000 mosquitoes have tested for both diseases; 37 isolates were positive for West Nile and 11 positive for EEE. More than 1,000 dead birds also have been tested with 435 testing positive in nearby towns.