MASSACHUSETTS – (WIAT & WCVB) – Laboratory tests have confirmed two new human cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus infection bringing the total number of human cases to seven, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
According to health officials, a woman in her 60s from eastern Worcester County and a female under the age of 18 from southwestern Middlesex County have been diagnosed with the EEE virus.
What is the EEE virus?
The EEE virus is Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), which is a rare but serious disease caused by a virus. EEE can be spread through the bite of an infected mosquito.
What are the symptoms of EEE?
The first symptoms of EEE are fever (often 103º to 106ºF), stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy.
Health experts say these symptoms show up three to ten days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Inflammation and swelling of the brain, called encephalitis, is the most dangerous and frequent serious complication. The disease gets worse quickly and some patients may go into a coma within a week.
There is no treatment for EEE.
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In Massachusetts, the virus is most often identified in mosquitoes found in and around freshwater, hardwood swamps.
Health experts say, the EEE virus particularly infects birds, often with no evidence of illness in the bird. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite infected birds. Although humans and several other types of mammals, particularly horses and llamas, can become infected, they do not spread disease.
EEE is a very rare disease. Since the virus was first identified in Massachusetts in 1938, fewer than 100 cases have occurred. Over 60% of those cases have been from Plymouth and Norfolk counties.
According to Massachusetts Officials, outbreaks of EEE usually occur in Massachusetts every 10-20 years. These outbreaks will typically last two to three years. The most recent outbreak of EEE in Massachusetts began in 2010 and included nine cases with four fatalities through 2012.
As a result, the risk level in Framingham, Marlborough, Northborough, and Sudbury has been raised to critical and the risk level in Berlin, Boylston, Hudson, Maynard, Stow, and Wayland has been raised to high.
In Massachusetts, about half of the people identified with EEE died from the infection. People who survive this disease will often be permanently disabled. Few people recover completely.
There has only been 1 EEE virus disease case reported in Alabama and that happened back in 2014.
For more information on the EEE virus and what states have reports of the virus visit: https://www.cdc.gov/easternequineencephalitis/tech/epi.html
For more information on EEE and how to prevent the spread of the virus visit: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/eee-eastern-equine-encephalitis
More information about different types of mosquitoes that can spread the virus can be found on the Mosquito-borne Diseases website.