EAST LYME, CT (WFSB) – An East Lyme church community is remembering a member who passed away from the first case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis with a vigil on Saturday.
Reverend Brian Maxwell, the Parochial Vicar of Saint Matthias of East Lyme told Channel 3 that 77-year-old Patricia Shaw, known as Pat, was the first victim of EEE in Connecticut since 2013.
Reverend Maxwell said Shaw loved nature, animals, and often came to pray at the statue of the Blessed Mother outside the church with her dog, named “Angel.”
"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. They rescued a bird, she wouldn’t kill a bug," said Reverend Maxwell.
"And so it’s almost ironic that she received this bite from a mosquito and had this very rare disease occur."
Officials with the Department of Public Health said the first victim, later known as Shaw, became infected with the deadly virus in August. Shaw remained hospitalized until her passing earlier in the week.
Reverend Maxwell said he stayed with Shaw and her family throughout the process.
The church held a 12-hour vigil of prayer on Friday and placed her picture by the statue at which she often came to pray.
The state also confirmed a second person is now infected with the potentially deadly virus. The patient is a resident of Old Lyme and became ill during the second week of September and remains hospitalized.
Doctors say it takes 4-10 days for flu-like symptoms to arise. When the virus spreads to the brain, a third of those cases end with death. Survivors are often left with long term brain damage.
There is no cure and no vaccination for EEE.
Until the first cold snap, health officials say the best thing to do is to limit evening activities when mosquitoes are more active.
Mosquitoes carrying EEE have been found in 12 towns and continue to be found in the southeastern part of the state.