In July, there was a report about Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEE) being found in Florida. The report stated that “one in three people infected with EEE will die and the other two-thirds will suffer brain damage.” For those of you who didn’t care because you didn’t live in Florida, you might care now because the disease has been found in 21 states and seven people have died this year.
Seven people have died from EEEV this year with the latest deaths happening in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cases of EEE have been found in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
As the name suggests, Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a danger to horses. However, this rare disease can also be spread to humans by mosquitoes. Aedes, Coquillettidia, and Culex species of mosquitoes can transfer EEEV to humans, and the virus gets into the bloodstream of the victim.
The mosquito-transmitted virus can cause inflammation of the brain. After being infected, the virus takes four to 10 days to develop into a full-blown virus. Symptoms include headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. If the virus gets stronger, people experience disorientation, seizures, and sometimes even a coma. Approximately one-third of people who are infected with EEEV die and those who survive usually have “mild to severe brain damage” or neurological problems according to the CDC.
There is no vaccine or antibiotic treatment for EEEV. The life-threating EEE disease only develops into a brain-swelling health emergency in about 2% of adults and 6% of children who are bitten by mosquitos that have EEE because it is not enough of the virus in the bloodstream. However, the virus seems to be getting stronger. There was only one death caused by EEEV in 2018 and 30 total from 2009-2018. Now there are at least seven deaths in 2019.
The CDC recommends that people use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and/or clothing. Wearing long sleaves and pants is advised.