Insect-Borne Diseases: What You Need To Know

August 23, 2019
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Insects have been spreading disease in Connecticut this season like wildfire. According to NBC News, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection closed down two campgrounds last week to protect the public after a group of diseased mosquitoes was found.

Mosquitos and ticks are the biggest carriers of serious and fatal insect-borne illnesses, and multiple species of both live in Connecticut. If your family enjoys outdoor activities, these are the diseases posing a threat to your health and the symptoms to watch for.

Mosquitos- Transmitted Diseases in CT

Mosquitos transfer diseases by acquiring pathogens from infected hosts (people or animals) they bite. These viruses multipy inside the insect, which are then transferred to the next host the insect feeds on.

A new study on climate change is showing how easily tropical infected mosquitos are traveling outside of their natural habitat. Published by PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, researchers found two species of mosquitos known for carrying potentially fatal viruses: Aedes albopictus and Aedes awgypti. Both of these species love urban environments, which harbor hundreds of thousands of food sources for them to access on any given day.

So how are these insects getting to America? The study reports that mosquitos most often travel through imported goods, and they are doing so at alarming rates. Researchers predict if the pace of these migrations continue, around 1 billion people could be exposed to these disease within the next 50-years.

To date, there have been nine arboviruses detected from mosquitos in Connecticut, with six directly affecting humans. According to the CT.Gov, these are the mosquito-transmitted diseases residents should be familiar with:

West Nile Virus

The West Nile Virus can result in moderate to severe health consequences, including encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). The age group most affected by this virus are individuals over the age of 65. Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph nodes. West Nile originates from bird species.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)

EEE was recently detected in a group of mosquitos that were trapped inside of a Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown. Although EEE is rare, it can be extremely serious when contracted by humans. Children are most at risk for severe consequences, which can also include encephalitis. Symptoms usually occur between four to ten days, some including headache, high fever, neck stiffness, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. EEE also likes to live in bird species.

La Crosse

La Crosse is a virus that originates in squirrels and chipmunks. This virus has similar health consequences to EEE, also negatively affecting children the most. Symptoms include headache, nausea, and vomiting in mild cases and seizures, coma, paralysis, and permanent brain damage in severe cases.

Jamestown Canyon

This virus originates from white-tailed deer presents like the flu. Young adults are most affected by this mild virus. Symptoms can set in two days to two weeks after a bite, including sore throat, runny nose, cough, fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting.

Cache Valley and Trivittatus

Cache Valley and Trivittatus are both febrile illnesses presenting as a fever and affecting all ages. While Cache Valley resides in deer, horse, and sheep, Trivittatus originates from rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and opossums. Other symptoms include severe headache, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.


There have been no cases of the Zika Virus in Connecticut, but that does not mean residents are in the clear. According to the National Safety Council (N.S.C.) , this serious virus is transmitted by mosquitos who bite in the day and the night, and originate in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Central and South America, and even parts of the United States.

Residents who are traveling to areas were Zika is present can contract the virus without any symptoms present. Others may show signs of fever, rash, pink eye, headache, or muscle pain that can last up to a week. If someone is infected with Zika, and is bitten by another mosquito within one week, the disease can then be spread further. Zika leads to abnormal brain development in infants, putting women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant at serious risk.

Tick-Borne Illnesses in CT

Ticks are horribly sneaky and can be highly dangerous. There are several different species of ticks in Connecticut, and more arrive in the country every year. Certain types of ticks carry life-threatening diseases-and are the size of a poppyseed!

Ticks are most commonly found in wooded areas and tall grass but can easily be transported by animals to any grassy area. The CT Department of Public Health lists the following tick-borne diseases Connecticut residents should look out for and the types of ticks that spread them:

Lyme Disease (Deer Tick)

Lyme Disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and can have detrimental health consequences for those infected. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, bulls-eye skin rash, or other. Lyme disease is treatable if caught quickly with antibiotics. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to infection in the joints, heart, and nervous system that could lead to permanent damage.

Babesiosis (Deer Tick)

Babesiosis is an infection caused by the protozoan Babesia micro, which invades and lives in the red blood cells and can have mild to severe consequences. Symptoms of these diseases typically show within one to four weeks after a tick bite and can present as a fever, muscle or joint aches, or drenching sweats. Severe cases have also found a breakdown of the red blood cells called hemolytic anemia.

HGA/HGE (Deer Tick)

HGA/HGE is an infection caused by a bacterium that lives in the white blood cells. This disease can also range from mild to severe but may present with any symptoms.

RMSF (Dog Tick)

RMSF is not very common in Connecticut, but parents should still be aware. The infection is caused by Rickettsia and can present with symptoms such as severe heartaches, fatigue, muscle pain, fever, chills, or rashes.

How To Protect Your Family

It only takes one bite for an insect to transmit a horrible disease. However, Connecticut residents do not have to be scared to go outside. The Central Connecticut Health District suggests taking these simple steps to protecting your family from insect bites at home and outdoors:

• Install window screens.
• Wear light-colored clothes and long sleeves/pants when able.
• Sleep under insects bed net when camping.
• Use insect replacement strong enough for the environment you will be spending time in.
• Get rid of stagnant water around your home in flower pots, old containers, and other areas.

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