BRANDON/WHITING/SUDBURY — The Vermont Department of Health late this month and next will hold three clinics locally to collect human blood samples that will be tested in a new study of Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE.
Officials hope to get 150-200 volunteers each from the towns of Brandon, Whiting and Sudbury to fill out a questionnaire and donate a blood sample. The effort is part of a study to detect the presence of the EEE virus in residents of those three towns and determine how many people have been infected with EEE but never got sick or had very mild symptoms.
Health officials are focusing on this area for good reason. The first recorded human deaths from EEE in Vermont took place here last summer. Richard Breen, 78, of Brandon, who died Sept. 4, was the first casualty, followed by 49-year-old Scott Sgorbati of Sudbury on Sept. 18. The deaths shocked the local community and led to the decision by state agriculture and health officials to do aerial pesticide spraying over the area.
Officials cannot guarantee that EEE will return this year, but the new study is part of a more proactive approach by the state to prevent more deaths and gain more information about the rare, mosquito-borne virus.
Eligible participants will be asked to complete a brief survey, and a trained nurse or phlebotomist will then take a vial of blood. All information collected during the study will be confidential. Individual test results will not be available. Participants can choose to leave the study at any time.
Residents of Brandon, Whiting and Sudbury will be mailed a recruitment form from the Department of Health with information about the clinics. Participants should choose only one clinic to attend.
Blood samples will be sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control for testing and results will come back to Vermont for data analysis. Officials said final results would be available in eight to 12 months from the last clinic.
The clinics are scheduled as follows:
April 23, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Brandon Senior Center, 1591 Forest Dale Road (Route 73).
May 14, noon-7 p.m., Sudbury Town Hall, 36 Blacksmith Lane.
May 29, noon-7 p.m., Whiting Town Hall, 29 South Main St. (Route 30).
For more information, contact Matthew Thomas at the Department of Health, 802-863-7240.