If you ever thought that the 2020 saga is coming to an end with the coronavirus, you got it wrong. A deadly disease transmitted by mosquitoes known as Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus or EEEV is brewing in Northeastern areas in the United States, such as Michigan and Massachusetts. Keep reading to learn more about this deadly virus that are making headlines as the first chapter of the second half of 2020.
EEEV first made headlines in 2019, when around a dozen people died after getting bitten by an infected insect. Preparations for the mosquito season have started already, but should you get a heads up about it?
What Is Eastern Equine Encephalitis?
EEEV is an arbovirus, which is a virus that can be spread by a mosquito or other arthropod. West Nile also belongs to the same category. EEEV is most commonly found along the Great Lakes and the Gulf Coast, in the Northeastern United States. Although it’s rare, it’s extremely fatal, causing death by brain inflammation. Though people in all ages can get infected, people above fifty and below fifteen are more vulnerable to the disease. The virus is neither transmitted from human to human nor other animals to human. It is only transmitted from infected mosquito to other animals and infected mosquito to human.
How Does EEEV Spread?
Similar to the West Nile virus, EEEV transmits according to the amplification cycle. First, infected mosquitoes feed on uninfected birds and infect them. Then, uninfected mosquitoes that feed on the same bird or on infected humans also catch the virus, further spreading it to a greater magnitude. In conclusion, the only way a human gets infected is by being exposed to mosquito bites, so it’s possible to avoid the disease by avoiding mosquito bites.
What Are The Symptoms Of EEEV?
Symptoms usually develop from 4-10 days after getting infected, resulting in a systemic fever or a neurological disease such as meningitis or encephalitis. Majority of EEEV patients recover in one or two weeks if the nervous system isn’t affected. Fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in behavioral patterns, sleepiness and coma are indications of a neurological disease. These symptoms might be visible in teens and adults, after few days of systemic illness.
Although the rate of infection of this virus is very low, one third of people who catch the virus die, often leaving the remaining two third with permanent damages to their health. These include irreversible brain damage, personality disorders, intellectual impairment, seizures, paralysis and cranial nerve dysfunction. Since there’s still no vaccine or specific treatment for this deadly infection, anyone who suspect they’ve got the disease should seek immediate medical care.
How To Avoid Getting Infected?
Since there’s no medicine, prevention is the best medicine. Avoiding mosquito bites is the only way to avoid the virus. Many steps can be taken for this, such as covering your hands and legs thoroughly when going out during dusk and dawn, spraying yourself with a DEET-containing bug repellent, a bio-pesticide, or a natural insect repellent when going to a place abundant with mosquitoes, removing any standing water on your property to minimize the breeding of mosquitoes, making sure the roof gutters drain properly, destroying the places that can act as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, regularly cleaning and chlorinating swimming pools, tubs, and outdoor saunas, and making sure that the doors and windows fit perfectly and are in good condition.
Do You Need To Worry?
Owing to the fact that EEEV is extremely rare, there’s no need to panic, but it’s important to be well aware of the circumstances, because prevention is better than cure!
According to Mark Fischer, a medical epidemiologist, although EEEV is a severe disease, the numbers are very much smaller than the West Nile virus. Seven cases are annually reported in America in average, which is far less than the amount of West Nile virus cases, which usually exceed hundred every year. From 2009 to 2018, there were only 72 confirmed cases of EEEV. But, there was a sudden increase in the count in 2019, a phenomenon that’s observed every few years, of which the exact reason is still unknown.
Most of the records from researches carried out regarding this virus are decades old, therefore they do not correlate much with the present situation.
For now, however, the number of cases is too low for the experts to develop a vaccine. So the best way to protect yourself from this fatal disease is avoiding mosquito bites by wearing protective clothes, avoiding areas where mosquitoes are abundant and using mosquito repellents.