An outbreak of the deadly mosquito-borne Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus is plaguing New England with reports of human infections and casualties in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Vermont. The virus has also been detected by the local Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) units in New Hampshire and Maine. But so far, no instances of human transmission have been reported.
Debilitating and Fatal
A single bite from an EEE-carrying mosquito can have serious consequences. EEE causes inflammation of the brain with symptoms appearing 4-10 days after getting bit. 1-in-3 cases are fatal, but even survivors can be left with varying degrees of permanent brain damage. EEE can cause disabling and progressive mental and physical conditions such as brain dysfunction, intellectual impairment, seizures, partial or total paralysis, damage to the cranial nerve, and even changes in personality. It can take 1-2 weeks for the illness to run its course, but the damage done to the brain is almost always permanent. Infants are especially vulnerable, suffering an abrupt onset of encephalitis immediately after getting bit. There are no specific viral treatments or vaccines currently available.
Signs of EEE infections include chills, fever, general feelings of discomfort, joint pains, and muscle pains. It can progress to encephalitis characterized by fever, bluish discoloration of the hands and feet, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, and coma. Infected individuals might also display increased irritability, restlessness, and anorexia.
With no available treatment and vaccines, the only way to ensure your safety is to avoid getting bit. The state might conduct aerial spraying, or you can contact your local pest control company to deal with large numbers of mosquitos. Install mosquito/insect screens on your windows and doors; they provide a modicum of safety once you enter your house. You can also close every window and door and rely on air conditioning until mosquito season passes. Try not to leave your skin exposed by wearing as much clothing as you can. Long sleeves and pants can reduce your chances of getting bit for a little while, but if you stay too long in one place or the mosquitos are particularly hungry, they can bite through clothing even if it’s denim. Make sure to use topical insect repellant on your skin and sprays for your garment. While certain manufacturers promote insect-repellent clothing, the efficacy of these products is uncertain, especially after a certain amount of washing. Standing water is the breeding ground of mosquitos. Turn over, cover, or get rid of any item or place that can hold water. This includes planters, flowerpots, tires, buckets, toys, trash bins, birdbaths, and pools. Clogged gutters and rain puddles can also serve as breeding grounds, but you can make them inhospitable with a little bit of dishwashing soap or shampoo.
Getting bit by an EEE-carrying mosquito will be life-changing. With no medical treatment or prevention available, your best hope in avoiding the disease lies in prevention. Avoid getting bit, get rid of places that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitos, and don’t hesitate to call pest control services if you see a lot of them.