The DeKalb County health department in metro Atlanta recently announced that a mosquito in the area tested positive for the deadly Eastern equine encephalitis virus.
“It’s a very serious illness if it is to infect a person,” Ryan Cira, the environmental health director for the DeKalb Board of Health, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, though humans are rarely infected by the virus.
Here’s what you need to know about EEE:
What is it?
The rare and deadly disease is caused by a virus spread via infected mosquitoes. It can lead to encephalitis or inflammation of the brain.
How rare is it really?
Cases of EEE are typically reported around Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, including Florida. About 5-10 cases are reported annually, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How can someone become infected?
The disease is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms of EEE usually appear after 4-10 days after the bite.
What are some symptoms of EEE virus infection?
Those suffering a severe infection may initially experience headache, chills, high fever, nausea and vomiting. However, the CDC warns, the illness can escalate to seizures, disorientation or coma.
What does treatment for EEE look like?
Doctors may encourage supportive therapy, which features respiratory support and IV fluids, but there’s no effective anti-viral drug to treat EEE.
How many infected people die of EEE?
About one-third of patients who develop EEE die. Those who survive often suffer mild to severe brain damage, according to public health experts.
Who’s most at risk of contracting the virus?
Anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors, either working in woodland habitats or spending recreational time outside, is at increased risk because of greater exposure to mosquitoes.
How common are mosquito-borne diseases in Georgia?
According to a recent report from Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Americans getting diseases transmitted by mosquito, tick and flea bites has more than tripled in recent years.
In Georgia, according to the report, there were 1,420 mosquito-borne disease cases reported between 2004-2016.
>> Related: Here’s why diseases caused by insects are becoming more prevalent
What’s causing the increase? According to the CDC, there are multiple factors involved. Since overseas travel and commerce are more common than ever before, germs are increasingly spreading and moving into new regions.
“A traveler can be infected with a mosquito-borne disease, like Zika, in one country, and then unknowingly transport it home,” the CDC report stated.
In addition to travel, new germs have also been discovered and added to the list of nationally notifiable diseases.
How to reduce your chances of getting infected
It’s all about preventing mosquito bites. Here are some tips from the CDC:
- Use EPA-approved insect repellant (DEET, Picaridin, IR3535 and more)
- Grow these seven mosquito-repelling plants in your garden.
- Eliminate larval habitats in your yards, landscapes to reduce mosquito populations.
- Wear light-colored clothing.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants.
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