Wednesday, July 11, Mass. health officials announced finding four mosquitoes infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
Catherine Brown, State Public Health Veterinarian, stated that they were all “a little surprised that this happened today,” because EEE does not usually show up until much later in the season.
The EEE threat level has been changed from “moderate” to “high” in Easton, Taunton, and Raynham, Mass. where the four mosquitoes were found. Two of the four mosquitoes were mosquitoes that typically bite mammals, which is concerning to health officials. The remaining infected mosquitoes typically bite birds.
EEE was found in mosquitoes, not humans. So why is this news? EEE is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. Human cases are extremely rare- in the United States, 6 human cases of EEE are reported annually, on average. EEE is so rare because transmission usually occurs in swampy areas, which are not often inhabited by large populations. Most cases have been reported in Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Though rare, it is a very serious infection.
Symptoms of EEE usually appear between four and ten days after transmission. Infection can either by systemic or encephalitic. Systemic infections are marked by chills, fever, and general malaise. Illness can last between one and two weeks. Encephalitic infections are more serious; these infections involve headache, fever, anorexia, vomiting, and in some cases, convulsions and coma.
According to the CDC, approximately one third of all people infected with EEE die from the disease. Those who recover may be left with brain damage or mental or physical impairments. Currently, there is no vaccine against EEE infection.
The Massachusetts Department of Health recommends avoiding mosquitoes by wearing insect repellent, long sleeves, pants, and socks. Other preventive measures include repairing window and door screens and draining standing water.