It’s Back and Here to Stay: Learn More About Eastern Equine Encephalitis and its Effects

It%E2%80%99s+Back+and+Here+to+Stay%3A+Learn+More+About+Eastern+Equine+Encephalitis+and+its+Effects

Sarah Jannings

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN- The biggest EEE outbreak in more than two decades has hit Michigan, leaving three dead and four others sick as a result.  Despite the devastating effects of this virus, many people don’t know the truth about what Eastern Equine Encephalitis really is and its symptoms, treatment, and risk factors.  Below you will find a series of most frequently asked questions about the EEE virus, along with answers to help you better understand the truth behind this yet to be curable disease. 

 

WHAT IS EASTERN EQUINE ENCEPHALITIS?

Eastern equine encephalitis is a viral illness that is transmitted to people and horses through the bite of an infected mosquito. The EEE virus is normally an extremely rare, but serious and often fatal infection that causes encephalitis or inflammation of the brain. It is spread by the bite of a mosquito infected with EEE virus. It can infect a wide range of animals including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. (New York State Department of Health). 

 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF EASTERN EQUINE ENCEPHALITIS?

Symptoms of EEE generally occur four to ten days after a person has been infected and include:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Neck stiffness

The symptoms of encephalitis depend on the part of the brain that is inflamed, the amount of inflammation, and the person’s age and overall health.

Some of the most severe and common symptoms of the EEE virus include:

  • Seizures
  • Confusion (disorientation)
  • Coma

However, it is also possible that some people who are infected with the EEE virus will not develop any symptoms. Be that as it may though, “approximately a third of patients who develop EEE die, and many of those who survive have mild to severe brain damage” (Boston’s Children’s Hospital).

 

WHO IS MOST AT RISK?

“Anyone can be infected with the EEE virus, especially if they live, work, or visit areas where EEEV is present. However, people over the age of 50 and younger than the age of 15 are at greatest risk for developing severe disease when infected with EEEV” (New York State Department of Health).  Beyond humans, horses are also the next mammal to be most at risk, especially if they have not received their yearly five-way or six-way shots and EEE virus booster if the virus is widespread in their area.

 

IS THERE ANY TREATMENT?

“No human vaccine against EEEV infection or specific antiviral treatment for clinical EEEV infections is available. Patients with suspected EEE should be evaluated by a healthcare provider, appropriate serologic and other diagnostic tests ordered, and supportive treatment provided” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  From there, for severe illnesses, supportive treatment includes hospitalization, IV fluids, and respiratory support.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT EASTERN EQUINE ENCEPHALITIS?

The most effective way to prevent infection from the ­­­Eastern equine encephalitis virus is to prevent mosquito bites. Mosquitoes bite during the day and night, but their primary time is right at dusk. Use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, and take steps to control mosquitoes indoors and outdoors.

 

WHEN WILL IT GO AWAY?

Eastern Equine Encephalitis does not look like it will be going away any time soon.  The mosquitoes will continue to stay up North until they migrate down South when the snow begins to fall.

Image Citation: https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2019/09/18/eee-virus-michigan-mosquito-eastern-equine-encephalitis/2361653001/