Some states this year are reporting elevated cases of Eastern equine encephalitis virus (or EEE or EEEV), a rare but serious and often deadly cause of brain infection transmitted through mosquito bites. It’s not exactly clear why cases are up this year, but it could be due to increased rainfall, as cases of EEE tend to happen in swampy areas, according to the CDC.
What makes the infection so serious is that it can come on quickly—in one recent case, a Michigan man went from healthy to brain dead in just nine days, CNN reports. So far this year, at least 20 cases have been reported across five states, per NBC News, compared to an average annual tally of seven cases reported to the CDC. Here’s the breakdown:
- Connecticut: State health officials said this week they’ve confirmed their first case of EEE in Connecticut since 2013. More info here.
- Massachusetts: Officials confirmed a ninth human case of EEE as of this week, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Maps and more info here.
- Michigan: The state is experiencing its worst outbreak of EEE in more than a decade, with at least three deaths and four additional cases confirmed. Health officials are urging affected counties to cancel activities taking place after dusk. More info here.
- New Jersey: The disease was recently detected in Union County, officials said. More info here.
- Rhode Island: At least three cases have been diagnosed, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health, including a child under 10. More info here.
What are the symptoms of EEE?
Symptoms tend to come on suddenly and include chills, fever, malaise, arthralgia, and myalgia. According to the CDC, the illness lasts one to two weeks, and recovery is complete when there is no central nervous system involvement. However, about a third of people diagnosed with EEE die from it. More info here.
How to protect yourself
EEE is rare, so unless you live in one of the affected areas, you don’t need to worry. If you do live near one of the hot spots, health officials urge residents to do the following:
- Use insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outside.
- Maintain window and door screening.
- Empty water from mosquito-breeding sites around the home (buckets, old tires, etc).
- Use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.
Health officials have said EEE will continue to be a concern until the first hard frost of the year.