The Grapevine

EEE Virus Outbreak Update: Officials Warn Residents Of These Areas To Take Caution

Eastern Equine Encephalitis or EEE remains epidemic in several U.S. states. The illness that rarely affects humans has claimed six lives already - one each from Connecticut, Massachusetts and West Warwick and three from Michigan.

In Michigan, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive  for the state’s Department of Health & Human Services said in a press release last Tuesday that Michigan is presently experiencing its worst EEE outbreak in over a decade.

The state encouraged its public officials to postpone outdoor activities in five Southwest Michigan counties and have them indoors instead.

According to Dr. Brian Chow, an infectious disease doctor at Tufts Medical Center, the incidence of the disease seems to be more severe this year compared in the past years and it is indeed a concern. “We encourage anyone who falls ill to talk to their doctor and come in for medical care,” Dr. Chow added.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a warning of a critical risk of the mosquito-borne virus in 36 of its communities and another 42 communities at high risk.

The state reported seven cases that included a five-year-old girl and an adult who died from contracting the virus. “We are seeing the most intense level of EEE activity that we have seen in several years,” Monica Bharel, Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner, said.

Dr. Chow said that it is between July and September that most cases of EEE happen east of the Mississippi River. “It tends to happen in places where mosquitoes like to live, usually in places with still, fresh water,” he added.

Mosquitoes around Cicero Swamp in New York and chickens in Florida are tested positive of the virus.

EEE is a viral infection spread by infected mosquitoes usually targeting horses but now it has infected humans as well. Symptoms of headache, fever, drowsiness, irritability, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, cyanosis, convulsions and coma can be observed in people who contracted EEE.

EEE lasts one to two weeks and infected people can recover completely as long as there is no involvement of the central nervous system. However, of those who recover, they are left with minimal to severe brain dysfunction.

There are no vaccine against EEE virus infection available for people as of yet. Avoiding mosquito bites remains the effective action and Dr. Chow advised to apply insect repellents in areas where mosquitoes are dense.

mosquitos Zika virus is mainly spread by the bite of the Aedes mosquito and sometimes sexual transmission. Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Mario Tama