Mosquito-transmitted Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is sweeping through the nation, leaving in its aftermath a wreckage of death, fear and cancellations. With Connecticut suffering its third death from the virus last week (tenth nationwide), warnings are being issued throughout the state to ensure people are well-aware of the dangers they face and ideally removed from harm’s way.
An email from the university last week urged UConn students to reschedule any events set to take place between dusk and dawn, the time period during which mosquitos are most active, at least until the first hard frost of fall at which time the insect activity will subside greatly.
While many are heeding the university’s warning, some are concerned about the possibility of altering their lives to accommodate the feeding habits of insects. Others believe that, although the EEE virus is a serious concern, there are other, more pressing problems which ought to be receiving such attention. The question remains as to whether or not state residents as a whole should be placing their lives on hold to avoid subjecting themselves to the risk of being bitten by mosquitos.
The risks in this situation are similar to the risks associated with other precarious activities such as smoking cigarettes, having unprotected sex or riding motorcycles. The risks are apparent, but there is no guarantee that harm will befall those engaged in the questionable activity (at least, there is an equal or greater chance that nothing bad will happen this time).
So, should we cancel football games, camping trips or late-night outings to avoid potential contact with mosquitos? The answer to this question, as are so many others in the absence of externalities, is simply a matter of personal decision. If those subjecting themselves to the risk believe the reward to be greater than the alternative or the chances of suffering negative consequences to be less than not, then by all means, folks, have at it.