Mosquito repellent could do a lot more than prevent an irritating bite this summer; it might just save your life. A deadly mosquito-borne virus is spreading in New England and parts of the South.
The Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEE or EEEV) have been confirmed in mosquitos in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, just outside Boston, according to news reports. State health officials have raised the risk level for mosquito-borne disease in the area after detecting EEE in a pool of the insects in Bridgewater, a Boston suburb.
“EEE is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with approximately 33% mortality (death rate) and significant brain damage in most survivors,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “There is no specific treatment for EEE; care is based on symptoms.”
“These were mammal-biting mosquitoes, and the findings should remind residents of the area to cover up and apply insect repellent when outdoors,” Dr. Catherine Brown, a public health veterinarian for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), told The Boston Globe.
The disease can cause death in people of all ages and it can also infect pets, according to DPH. It damages or destroys the brain by causing swelling or inflammation.
Spreading Elsewhere, Too
According to the CDC the symptoms of EEE include:
- High Fever
- Upset Stomach
Some people die of the virus because they believe they merely have the flu, and it then worsens. Persons who exhibit these symptoms after a mosquito bite should see a doctor or go to the hospital immediately.
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EEE is also spreading in the South; the Mobile County Health Department reported that two chickens in Theodore, Alabama, tested positive for the virus. Theodore is a suburb of Mobile.
The EEE virus can spread over wide areas because it can affect birds. The birds carry the virus to new regions when they fly. The virus also can affect any large mammal, including horses as well as people.
Chikungunya Spreading in the Mainland US
EEE virus is not the only threat from mosquitos; two other dangerous mosquito-transmitted viruses are also spreading in the United States.
The first confirmed locally acquired case of the chikungunya virus in the mainland United States has been confirmed by the CDC in Florida. NBC News reported that Florida’s state health department has confirmed two cases of the disease which has infected 350,000 people and taken 21 lives in the Caribbean and Central America.
The good news is that chikungunya is not usually fatal in humans. The bad news is that it still makes you very sick and there is no known vaccine or drug treatment for the virus. There have been around 28 cases of the virus in the mainland United States since 2008 but all of those people contracted it outside the mainland US.
Additionally, there have been 121 reported locally acquired cases of chikungunya in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, according to the CDC.
The two species of mosquitos that can spread chikungunya are found throughout the southern states, the Midwest and the middle Atlantic states.
Chikungunya usually causes a bad headache, fever, rash and joint pain in its victims. Some people end up spending weeks in bed because of it. It can be deadly to the elderly, small children, and persons with serious health problems.
Meanwhile, cases of the mosquito-spread West Nile virus have been reported in 14 states, including Colorado, New York and Texas. Three cases of West Nile have been reported in Colorado, including one in Saguache County, which is in the high altitude San Luis Valley in the south central part of the state.
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