‘It Decimated His Brain’ – It’s Worst In Florida

Health officials from Florida to Massachusetts are warning about the increased risk of a rare, mosquito-borne virus that could have deadly consequences if contracted by humans. Screenshot: ABC News, Aug 28, 201

Horses can get the vaccine. You cannot.

1 in 3 victims will die.

By Hanna Krueger, Aug 27, 2019

Boston Globe – For Maureen Fuller, summer weekends once meant camping among the trees and under the stars.

But this month, when the first human case of Eastern equine encephalitis since 2013 was confirmed in Massachusetts, Fuller did not leave the house for two days.

Just a few months ago, her husband, Jeff, died following a grueling eight-year battle with the mosquito-borne virus.

Since early August, four people in Massachusetts have been infected with EEE, most recently a Fairhaven woman who died Sunday.

The cases mark the beginning of a new, intense cycle of EEE activity that will likely persist for two to three years, according to Catherine Brown, epidemiologist for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

On Monday, the department added Methuen to its growing list of communities at “critical” risk for EEE, bringing the total to 24. Residents in cities and towns at critical risk are urged to use caution and “limit outdoor activities after sunset.”

Jeff Fuller was 43 when he was infected during the state’s last big EEE cycle, from 2010 to 2012; the last human cases were reported in 2013, according to the state.

[EEE is most commonly reported in Florida, followed by Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and Michigan. Source: CDC]

“Never in a million years did we think one mosquito bite could take down a person,” Maureen Fuller said. “We would worry about elderly people and children, but my husband was a hulk of a man. Over 6 feet and 280 pounds.”

Even during an intense cycle, EEE infection in humans is extremely rare. Just 28 people in Massachusetts have been diagnosed with the disease since 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2009 to 2018, Massachusetts logged 10 cases of EEE, trailing Florida by three cases for the most in the nation, according to the CDC.

But the virus is particularly deadly — with a 40 percent mortality rate — and cruel even to those who survive. Read more. 

On July 25, the Florida Department of Health in Orange County (DOH-Orange) advised residents about the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus after a group of sentinel chickens in the same flock tested positive for the infection.

It’s not just chickens. In 2019 alone, EEE has been detected 25 horses, one emu, one eagle, and 77 chickens across the sunshine state, Fox-13 reported. The affected animals have been found in 27 counties including Polk, Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the EEE virus — if contracted by humans — can in extreme cases cause encephalitis, a rare cause of brain infection and swelling. Read more. 

What is Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus?

How Does it Spread?

Vector Disease Control International

Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) is a zoonotic alphavirus and arbovirus, and was first recognized in horses in 1831 in Massachusetts.

  • The first confirmed human cases were identified in New England in 1938.
  • EEEV is present today in North, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
  • In rare cases, those that contract the virus will develop the serious neuroinvasive disease, Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE).
  • From 2009 to 2018, between three (3) and fifteen (15) cases of EEE were reported annually in the U.S.
  • EEE may also be commonly referred to as Triple E or sleeping sickness.

EEEV is a vector-borne disease that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

Culiseta melanura is the primary vector among birds, but this mosquito species does not typically feed on humans. It is believed that EEEV is mainly transmitted to humans and horses by bridge vectors that have contracted the virus by feeding on infected birds.

Bridge vector species of mosquitoes may include Coquillettidia pertubans, Aedes sollicitans, and Ochlerotatus canadensis.

The risk of contracting the EEE virus is highest during the summer months, and those who live and work near wetland and swamp areas are at higher risk of infection.

EEEV is only spread to humans via mosquito bite, and cannot be transmitted directly by other humans or horses.

There is an EEEV vaccine available for horses, and owners are encouraged to discuss vaccination with their veterinarian.

Symptoms of EEE Infection

Symptoms typically occur four to ten days after a bite from an infected mosquito and include fever, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, joint pain, and fatigue.

In rare cases, infection occurs in the brain and spinal cord leading to sudden high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, seizures, and coma.

The mortality rate of those that develop EEE is about 33%, the highest among arboviruses transmitted in the U.S.

There is no human vaccine for EEE or anti-viral drugs for treatment of EEE.

For severe illnesses, supportive treatment includes hospitalization, IV fluids, and respiratory support. Read more.