BOSTON (WHDH) - Eastern Equine Encephalitis, known as EEE, is a rare but serious disease caused by a virus and is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health says that in Massachusetts, the virus is most often identified in mosquitos found in and around freshwater, hardwood swamps. Outbreaks of EEE usually occur in Massachusetts every 10-20 years and will last typically two to three years.
According to MDPH, the first symptoms EEE are fever, often 103º to 106ºF, stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy. These symptoms show up three to ten days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Inflammation and swelling of the brain, called encephalitis, is the most dangerous and frequent serious complication. The disease gets worse quickly and some patients may go into a coma within a week.
The MDPH says there is no treatment for EEE. In Massachusetts, about half of the people who have been identified with EEE died from the infection. People who survive this disease will often be permanently disabled.
Few people recover completely.
How can you protect yourself from EEE? Since the infection spreads by mosquito bites, the MDPH made a list of some things you can do to reduce your chances of being bitten:
- Schedule outdoor events to avoid the hours between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
- When you are outdoors, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and socks. This may be difficult to do when the weather is hot, but it will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
- Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), IR3535 (3-[N-butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid) or oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-Menthane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] according to the instructions given on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age. Permethrin products are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear and should not be applied to skin.
- Keep mosquitoes out of your house by repairing any holes in your screens and making sure they are tightly attached to all your doors and windows.
- Remove areas of standing water around your home. Here are some suggestions:
- Look around outside your house for containers and other things that might collect water and turn them over, regularly empty them, or dispose of them.
- Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left outdoors so that water can drain out.
- Clean clogged roof gutters; remove leaves and debris that may prevent drainage of rainwater.
- Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
- Change the water in birdbaths every few days; aerate ornamental ponds or stock them with fish.
- Keep swimming pools clean and properly chlorinated; remove standing water from pool covers.
- Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.
- More information on choosing and using repellents safely is included in the MDPH Mosquito Repellents fact sheet. If you can’t go online, contact the MDPH at (617) 983-6800 for a hard copy.
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