Patricia Shaw, a 77-year-old Connecticut woman, died last week from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a rare mosquito-linked illness.
Speaking to WFSB at a vigil for Shaw on Saturday, Rev. Brian Maxwell of Saint Matthias of East Lyme, CT., said she was the type who wouldn’t have hurt a fly.
“I was with her family yesterday and they were telling me that she was so kind towards animals and if she was walking down the road and saw something that was wounded, she’d pick it up,” Maxwell told WFSB.
“She wouldn’t kill a bug. And so it’s almost ironic that she received this bite from a mosquito and had this very rare disease occur,” he added.
Shaw’s death marks the first EEE fatality in the state since 2013, and the seventh to date this year. Connecticut’s Department of Health confirmed that there was a second case of EEE in an adult resident from Old Lyme who has bee hospitalized since the second week of September, according to WFSB.
“The identification of two Connecticut residents with EEE, one of whom had passed away, emphasizes the seriousness of this infection,” said DPH Commissioner Renee Coleman Mitchell in the news release, according to Fox News. “Using insect repellent, covering bare skin and avoiding being outdoors from dusk to dawn are effective ways to help keep you from being bitten by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes continue to be active until the first heavy frost.”
The prior fatalities were recorded in Massachusetts (2), Rhode Island (1) and Michigan (3). According to the DPH, Massachusetts has reported 10 total human cases of the rare disease this year, and Rhode Island has had three. Meanwhile, Michigan has recorded seven cases in “its worst Eastern Equine Encephalitis outbreak in more than a decade,” according to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief deputy for health.
The CDC says that people over 50 and under 15 years old are more susceptible to the illness, which starts to show symptoms four to ten days after infection.
Those infected will develop chills, fever, lethargy and joint pain. In cases where the disease enters the central nervous system, one-third of patients die from EEE, and those who survive are likely to be mentally and physically disabled. There is no vaccine for the disease.
Officials urge residents in affected regions to take preventative measures, such as using EPA-approved bug spray with DEET, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and rescheduling outdoor events that take place during the peak mosquito-biting hours in the early morning or evening.