WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Florida health officials issued an advisory stating that the rare but life-threatening mosquito-borne disease called Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) had been detected in the state.
- Different species of mosquitoes including those that live in warmer regions of the country can help spread the virus.
- The EEEV virus can cause brain damage and kill as much as a third of its human victims.
The Florida Department of Health in Orange County has issued a public advisory this month that the Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) has once again popped up in the state. The virus is one of the most lethal but thankfully rare mosquito-borne diseases that can cause brain damage and kill as much as a third of its human victims.
EEEV can be spread by different types of mosquitoes including species that live in the warmer regions of the U.S. While many infected people either develop flu-like or no symptoms, encephalitis or severe brain swelling has been reported in 5 percent of the victims.
The swelling can lead to headaches, drowsiness, convulsions, coma, and possibly death which comes two days after the onset of symptoms. Even if you have survived the ordeal, it’s possible that you’ll be left with lasting neurological impairment.
The good thing is EEEV comes in contact with people only once in a blue moon. Its main carrier species tend to live away from cities, particularly in swampy areas. The virus is in fact impassable for humans and horses since it doesn’t reproduce pathogens in our bodies enough for other mosquitoes to suck and keep the transmission of the infection going.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an annual average of 7 EEEV cases in the U.S but only six were diagnosed in 2018.
Even then, the virus is known to show up even once in a while in Florida along with Massachusetts, New York, and North Carolina.
Chicken coops are often used by health officials and U.S. researchers as indicators for EEEV and West Nile Virus by positioning them in areas where mosquitoes are most widespread with periodical blood testing. The virus, according to health officials, was found in these so-called guard birds.
“Several sentinel chickens in the same flock have tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) infection,” read the advisory. “The risk of transmission to humans has increased.”
Although there’s no cause for panic here yet, the EEEV and West Nile, which is presently the most common mosquito-borne disease in the U.S, will eventually become more rampant as climate changes. What’s more, there is no known and available specific treatment or vaccine for EEEV available yet.
For those seeking to reduce risks of being bitten, you should use repellants made with DEET, lemon eucalyptus oil, picaridin, para-menthane-diol and IR3535 on yourself and your clothing. Wearing long pants and sleeves can also benefit people working in places where mosquitoes are prevalent, along with clearing any sources of stagnant water.