SUDBURY — A second man from the area has died from Eastern equine encephalitis.
Scott Sgorbati, 49, of Sudbury died of the mosquito-borne disease, the Vermont Department of Health announced on Tuesday evening. He was a furniture installer who was said to be in very good health before contracting the disease and being hospitalized last month.
Sgorbati’s death follows the death of 87-year-old Richard Breen of Brandon, who also contracted EEE in August and who died Sept. 4.
Two weeks ago, the Scott Sgorbati Family Aid Fund was established at the National Bank of Middlebury to help Sgorbati’s family. Within days it had raised more than $900.
In announcing Sgorbati’s death, Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen tried to reassure Vermonters.
“I want to remind Vermonters that this is a very rare virus. On average there are only six cases nationwide each year,” Chen wrote in a press release. “It can lead to life-threatening illness for about a third of all people infected. So while exposure is extremely rare, it is a very serious illness.”
People who are infected with EEE can develop two types of illness. One has a sudden onset and is characterized by chills, fever, malaise, and joint and muscle pain, and lasts about one to two weeks. The more severe illness affects the central nervous system and causes fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, convulsions and coma.
Until Breen and Sgorbati became infected, EEE was unknown in humans in Vermont. The first animal cases of the disease appeared in emus in Brandon about a year ago.
After Breen’s death, state officials sprayed insecticide in Brandon, Sudbury, Leicester, Whiting, Cornwall and Salisbury in order to kill the species of mosquito that carries EEE.
“No amount of mosquito mitigation will eliminate the risk,” Chen wrote. “There will be a very small risk of exposure to EEE until after the first hard frost. What’s important right now is that Vermonters are aware of EEE and take steps to avoid exposure.
“We continue to advise all Vermonters to take the following actions to protect themselves from mosquito bites and risk of infection from EEE and West Nile virus,” he continued. “Limit the amount of time spent outdoors at dawn and dusk. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants outside when mosquitoes are active. Use insect repellents labeled as being effective against mosquitoes. Remove standing water around your house.”
Chen took pains to point out the unusual circumstance of having two people in the same area die from EEE.
“I want to remind you that this is a very rare disease,” he wrote. “Having two Vermonters die from EEE is tragic and — I am sure — difficult for family members to understand.
“Once again, I want to offer my condolences to the families of Mr. Sgorbati and Mr. Breen on behalf of the state of Vermont.”