After a second Connecticut resident died of the mosquito-borne eastern equine encephalitis virus, UConn Huskies officials have moved up the start time for Saturday’s game against the South Florida Bulls to noon.
The game between the two 1-3 AAC teams was originally slated for 7 p.m. ET, but UConn officials have recommended that all outdoor events be held during the day since mosquitos are most active between dusk and dawn.
The decision was reached to help avoid exposure for student-athletes and fans, although the risk is not deemed high enough to call off the game.
“Though the risk is low, as a precaution, we want to take any reasonable steps we can to help reduce the exposure of student-athletes, staff and the public to this illness,” UConn President Thomas Katsouleas said. “I want to thank the conference, USF and our own division of athletics for their flexibility.”
In response to the news, USF has offered to refund tickets to any fan who planned to travel to the game. UConn fans will be able to exchange their tickets for one of the Huskies' final three home games if they wish.
How dangerous is the eastern equine encephalitis virus?
EEE is a rare virus that typically affects fewer than 10 Americans each year, according to the CDC, but it has seen a proliferation this year. As of Tuesday, CNN counted 27 cases across six states this year, 10 of which came from Massachusetts, three of which came from Rhode Island and two of which came from Connecticut.
The virus causes brain infections and results in death about 30 percent of the time, while many survivors have long-lasting neurological problems. Scientists have created a vaccine for the virus for horses, but there is not one yet for humans.
Experts recommend covering bare skin and using repellant, as well as staying inside from dusk to dawn. Mosquitos typically stay active until the first frost of the year, which generally reaches Connecticut in late October.
This latest outbreak is the largest of EEE since 1996, and experts attribute its spread to climate change. With more frequent rain, hotter summers and milder winters, climate researchers have long predicted that mosquito survival and breeding rates would increase, spreading more diseases like EEE.
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