Rare Disease Carried by Mosquitoes Surfaces, Killing 1

Another person in Alabama has been infected
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2023 6:40 PM CDT
Rare Disease Carried by Mosquitoes Surfaces, Killing 1
A vapor, sprayed to control mosquitoes, hangs airborne as it leaves the nozzle of a East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project pickup truck in July 2020 in Burlington, Mass.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Health officials have warned about a rare virus that can be transmitted by mosquitoes after its detection in distant states and the death of an infected person in Alabama. Two people became ill there, Live Science reports, with eastern equine encephalitis, which can inflame the brain. Both cases were in Baldwin County, the state Health Department said Monday. Officials said residents should take steps to avoid mosquito bites; Alabama and local health departments are setting traps to test for EEE. No information was released about the people who contracted the illness.

EEE also has been detected in New York and Vermont, though not in humans. It's the first time since 2015 tests have found it in Vermont, per WPTZ. There's no vaccine and no specific treatment—and often no symptoms—for the illness, per CNN. Fluids and pain medication usually are administered to patients. Experts advise anyone who suspects they've contracted it to contact a health care provider. When symptoms do develop, it often happens four to 10 days after a mosquito bite. In addition to causing encephalitis, the virus can inflame the spinal cord, which is meningitis.

The steps recommended by Alabama health officials to limit exposure include applying insect repellant, wearing loose and long shirts and pants, and having screens on homes' windows and doors, per ABC News. The species that can carry EEE bites most often at dawn and dusk, while others bite during the day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one-third of people who develop encephalitis from EEE die. Survivors often have left with impairments, which can include cognitive issues or paralysis. Many require ongoing medical care and die within a few years. The number of cases varies but averages 11 per year. (More eastern equine encephalitis stories.)

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