Those pesky mosquitoes can do more than make you itch.
Sometimes, mosquitoes spread the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus, a virus carried by birds that live in freshwater swamps. When mosquitoes feed on birds that have the virus, they also become infected. In turn, people can also get the virus if they are bitten by an infected mosquito.
That’s reason enough to use that bug spray!
While the United States is seeing an uptick this year in the number of humans infected by the EEE virus, Dr. Alina Filozov, chief of Infectious Disease at Middlesex Health, says EEE is still rare, and national statistics support that statement. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says an average of seven cases are reported each year in the United States.
Getting the virus may be rare, but it is important to educate yourself about EEE and to know the symptoms.
Dr. Filozov says the EEE virus is a systemic infection with an abrupt onset and is characterized by chills, fever, malaise (overall feeling of discomfort and lack of wellbeing), joint and muscle pain. Generally, the illness lasts one to two weeks, and recovery is complete when there is no central nervous system involvement.
Not every EEE infection will lead to encephalitis, or brain inflammation. Encephalitis can develop after a few days of general illness in children and adults who have the EEE virus, and it can be life threatening.
Signs and symptoms of encephalitis include fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions and coma.
To protect yourself from mosquitoes, Dr. Filozov recommends wearing long sleeves and pants when weather permits, using bug spray and eliminating mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, barrels and other containers.
What to do if you have symptoms
If you have any unexplained EEE symptoms that are not accompanied by a headache, confusion or a seizure, you should seek medical care. Call your primary care physician. If they are not available, visit a Middlesex Health Emergency Department location or call 9-1-1.