EEE Virus in New England: What You Need to Know

EEE Virus in New England: What You Need to Know

What You Need to Know About EEE Virus in New England

As the weather starts to cool and the leaves start to change, it’s the perfect time for enjoying a variety of outdoor activities, but mosquito populations are in full swing. These harmful insects can transmit dangerous illnesses to you and your family, including Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Protect your family by learning more about EEE and following our steps for prevention.

What Is EEE?

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a rare yet deadly viral illness, transmitted by infected mosquitos, that can infect the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, causing meningitis. Cases appear primarily in late spring through early autumn but can also occur during the winter in subtropical endemic areas, such as the Gulf states. On average, 11 cases are reported annually in the U.S., mostly in states along the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf Coast, and Great Lakes. Most cases reported between 2010 and 2019 were in Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Michigan. 

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of EEE?

Illness typically lasts from one to two weeks. Patients usually recover completely if the nervous system is not involved. The signs of systemic infection from EEE include: 

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Discomfort
  • Loss of energy 

When the nervous system is involved, symptoms become more severe and dangerous. The signs of the neurologic disease include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Behavioral changes
  • Drowsiness
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Encephalitis (the most dangerous symptom which occurs in only 4 to 5 percent of cases)

How Is EEE Diagnosed and Treated?

An EEE test examines blood or spinal fluid for antibodies made as a defense against the viral infection. No specific EEE treatment exists. If it becomes severe, it is treated with supportive therapies, such as hospitalization, IV fluids, respiratory support, and preventing further infections.

What Steps Can I Take to Avoid EEE Infection?

There are no vaccines or antiviral medications that can prevent or combat EEE. The only way to avoid it is by preventing mosquito bites. You can take the following steps to reduce your chances of receiving a mosquito bite:

  1. Avoid spending time outside between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  2. Eliminate potential mosquito breeding grounds by removing standing water around your property. This includes children’s wading pools, which should be emptied and stored on their side when not in use.
  3. Make sure screens on windows and doors are intact, free of holes, and tightly secured to their frames. If you can, use air conditioning rather than leaving windows open.
  4. When possible, wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, closed shoes, and high socks. This reduces skin exposure to potential bites.
  5. Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent, like the ones from Ranger Ready, frequently and according to the instructions. The active ingredient in Ranger Ready Repellent is Picaridin 20%, an odorless, non-greasy, non-toxic alternative to DEET that provides 12 hours of protection against mosquitos without the damaging side effects. Recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a safe, effective insect repellent, Picaridin 20% is backed by over 25 years of clinical research.

How Is EEE Transmitted?

EEE’s primary transmission cycle takes place in freshwater hardwood swamps between Culiseta melanura mosquitos and avian hosts. The “bridge” between infected birds and uninfected mammals is necessary for transmission to humans. There is no direct transmission from person to person. Individuals in areas of virus circulation and those in or around swampy areas in the Eastern U.S. are at the highest risk of contracting EEE from mosquito bites.

EEE Cases in New England

Out of the entire country, EEE cases occur most frequently in Massachusetts, with 22 cases reported between 2010-2019. The Massachusetts EEE risk map shows that most of them are found in Bristol, Plymouth, and Norfolk counties, but an active year sees cases throughout the state. EEE tends to occur in outbreaks every 10 to 20 years, with each outbreak lasting for two to three years. As of August 25, 2020, there have been three confirmed human cases of EEE in the U.S., all in Massachusetts. 

The virus has occurred in other New England states, as well, just to a lesser extent. Between 2010 and 2019, there were five cases of EEE in Connecticut, three cases of EEE in New Hampshire, and four cases of EEE in Rhode Island. Maine and Vermont had the fewest cases in New England, each with only two cases from 2010 to 2019.

We want your family to enjoy spending time outside while staying protected from diseases like EEE. Since preventing mosquito bites is the only proven way to avoid EEE, it's important to purchase the best and most effective insect repellent. Keep your family safe from EEE with Ranger Ready Repellents.