Students and administrators at the University of Connecticut are reacting after an email was sent to students advising them to take extra precautionary measures to avoid mosquito bites due to the increase in cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in the last few months.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis, more commonly known as EEE or Triple E, is a mosquito-transmitted cause of brain infections that kills up to a third of its victims, with survivors often having ongoing neurological issues, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The virus, whose strain has grown notably worse, has killed ten people across four states this year, including three people in Connecticut alone, according to CNN.
In an email sent to the student body on Sunday, the university advised that students take preventative steps to lessen their chance of being bit by a possibly infected mosquito on campus, given that there is no current vaccine or specific treatment for the virus.
“Mosquitoes are the most active beginning at dusk each evening and overnight until dawn. To help minimize exposure to mosquitoes, the university is recommending to all units that outdoor activities and events scheduled to occur anytime between dusk and dawn be rescheduled to another time during the day, if possible, for the time being,” the email said. “Mosquito activity continues until the first hard frost of the fall, which typically happens in October.”
Dr. David Gregorio, the director of the Master of Public Health Program at UConn Health, said though the condition is serious, there are other issues within population health that garner more attention and support.
“There is always a tendency to overstate low risks and understate high risks,” Gregorio said. “We can focus on the extreme, unlikely events and we dismiss the chronic low-level exposures that we subject ourselves to all of the time.”
Gregorio added it is important to be hypervigiliant, but that mass hysteria and worries are often fueled by an idea of constant health autonomy so long as one takes the measures to protect themselves internally.
“Part of the hysteria is bred by a healthcare perspective that says that there are things you can do individually to protect yourself and the external forces that are out there are relatively minimal,” Gregorio said. “We also expect — or really believe we deserve to be healthy, there is this notion that you can be physically superior and now we’re saying we’re vulnerable to a mosquito?”
Gregorio said the increase in the number of cases this year is likely caused by shifting global temperature changes, which push infected mosquitoes further north for a longer period of time during the year.
“The warm season is extending — the first hard freeze along the shore where these cases are occurring probably won’t happen until November,” Gregorio said. “We’re adding periods of risk — add a week to a million people in Connecticut, and that represents a serious elevation of concern.”
EEE-infected mosquitoes, who tend to breed in standing waters and swampy areas, are being found in higher quanities in recent years due also to increases in rainfall as climate patterns shift, according to the Hartford Courant.
Alex Biron, the president of UConn Outing Club, said he plans on taking steps to protect himself and his club members at they embark on their outdoor trips, but that he is not overly concerned with the virus.
“Given the low risk currently, I don’t see any reason to take dramatic precautions beyond what we’ve already been told to do,” Biron said. “I won’t be cancelling any trips and I’m expecting the first hard frost of the season to occur soon farther north, which is where we spend most of our time as a club anyway.”
Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.