The New Scare – EEE (Eastern Equine Encephalitis)
If you’re paying attention to the news you’ve probably heard about the new scare EEEV (eastern equine encephalitis virus). Although no cases have occurred in Texas, we’ve had a few questions about it and it’s a good idea to mention the facts, so you know what to expect.
How is it Spread?
The EEE virus is spread by mosquitoes and it is the cause of a rare brain infection. The best prevention for this virus is to avoid mosquito bites. If you’re away from the house wear long sleeved shirts and pants and use insect repellent.
How is it Transmitted?
The transmission of this virus begins when the mosquito feeds on the avian host found in freshwater hardwood swamps. The mosquito in question (Culiseta melanura) is not your typical human feeding mosquito which means transmission to humans requires a “bridge” between other infected birds and the more common human feeding mosquitoes such as Aedes (day-time) and Culex (night-time). Because this can be spread by Aedes it means you must be vigilant during the day and at dusk/dawn.
Human’s are a “Dead-End”
One thing to note is that humans are considered a “dead-end” host which means you will not contract EEEV from humans – through the transmission of a mosquito feeding on an infected human and then biting you. This is due to the unlikely nature in which a mosquito will draw infected blood. That mosquito would have to be very lucky! Therefore, it’s more common for the mosquito to become infected from a bird who has much less blood than us.
Where can you get EEV?
Although there are only a few cases reported each year this virus has about a 30% mortality rate. Many people who survive are left with ongoing neurological problems. It is important to note that only 4 – 5% of human EEEV infections result in EEE. On average the USA has 7 human cases a year. Most cases occur in Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and North Carolina. This virus is most common in and around freshwater hardwood swamps in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states and the Great Lakes region. Below is a graphic of America with the number of EEEV reported cases for each state. Although Texas is not on the list be aware of this map while traveling.