A new strain of West Nile virus has shown up in Connecticut, but Yale and New Haven officials say there is no cause for alarm.
This recent strain is transmitted more quickly than older strains, said Theodore Andreadis, the head of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station’s environmental sciences department. Although West Nile virus activity could continue through October, virus activity peaked in late August and early September, he said.
“I don’t see any cause to be overly concerned at this point,” said Michael Rigsby MED ’88, the medical director at the Yale HEALTH Center.
West Nile virus in Connecticut was first detected in June this year, Andreadis said. So far, eight cases of West Nile virus have been detected in the state, but the only case in New Haven was reported in mid-August. Connecticut has yet to have any virus-related deaths this year, Andreadis added.
New Haven has increased its preventive health measures in response to the recent detection of the virus, said Paul Kowalski, the New Haven Health Department’s environmental health director. Information regarding West Nile virus has been distributed to residents through fliers, he said. In addition, he added, 4,000 catch basins in public areas with standing water have been treated with altosid, a environmentally-safe larvicide that is effective for about 150 days.
“You can’t eliminate all the mosquitoes,” Kowalski said. “So the prime motivation from our perspective is education.”
Measures taken to prevent the spread of West Nile virus in the past have included cleaning up mosquito breeding sites and advising people to use repellent and to avoid contact with mosquitoes, Andreadis said. The effectiveness of these measures is hard to gauge, he added.
Symptoms of West Nile virus are similar to those of the flu, including fever, severe headaches, muscle fatigue and nausea. A blood test is needed to determine whether someone is infected with the flu or West Nile virus. In elderly people, the virus can lead to meningitis or encephalitis, which in turn can lead to a coma and possibly death. There is no effective treatment for West Nile virus, he said.
“Antibiotics do not work,” Andreadis said. “The treatment is mostly supportive to reduce fever and to keep the individual with fluids.”
There were no West Nile-related deaths in New Haven in 2009.