Third Death From Rare Mosquito-Borne Illness Confirmed in United States

September 10, 2019 Updated: September 10, 2019

The third confirmed death from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) was confirmed on Sept. 9 in Rhode Island.

The state’s Department of Health said that an adult in their 50s died from the virus.

It was the first fatal case since 2007 and the first human case since 2010 in Rhode Island.

The person who died, from West Warwick, contracted the virus in late August.

The death came just days after a health agency in Michigan confirmed a woman was killed by EEE.

The Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services said (pdf) that there were three confirmed human cases in Michigan, including two in Kalamazoo County. One of them died.

A stock photo of a mosquito on human skin. (Himas Rafeek/Pixabay)

There are also two suspected cases and two additional cases under investigation.

“We strongly encourage residents to take precautions such as using insect repellent with DEET, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors during the peak mosquito-biting hours which are dusk and dawn,” James Rutherford, health officer at the department, said in a statement.

Officials in Rhode Island said that four mosquitoes have tested for EEE as well as a horse. Like other states that have seen EEE cases, Rhode Island has been spraying a pesticide in certain areas. Officials said they’ve been spraying Anvil 10+10 “at very low concentrations.”

“No adverse health risks are expected with its use for mosquito control. Nonetheless, while spraying is occurring, it is best to err on the side of caution and limit time outdoors and keep windows closed. It is generally good for people to limit their exposure to pesticides,” the department stated.

The Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus cases reported by state in the United States from 2009 through 2018. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Spraying was done overnight Sunday in West Warwick and portions of Coventry, Cranston, Warwick, East Greenwich, and West Greenwich; as well as all of Central Falls, Pawtucket, North Providence and parts of Providence, East Providence, Smithfield, Lincoln, and Cumberland.

Spraying in northern Rhode Island and parts of the southern portion of the state were scheduled to be completed between dusk on Monday and 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

The department said people should get rid of things around the house and yard that collect water, put screens on windows and doors, and use bug spray that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or paramenthane.

Other prevention techniques include putting mosquito netting over playpens and baby carriages, trying to avoid being outside at sunrise and sundown, and making sure gutters are clean.

Officials in Massachusetts said a woman died from EEE in late August. Two new cases in the state were announced late last week, including a 5-year-old girl who is in critical condition in the hospital.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a rare virus that causes brain infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Approximately 30 percent of people with EEE die and many survivors have ongoing neurologic problems.

Only six cases were reported nationwide in 2018; the peak since 2009 was in 2012, when 15 cases were reported.

Symptoms typically appear after 4 to 10 days and include chills, fever, and malaise. The illness can last one to two weeks. Death usually happens two to 10 days after symptoms start appearing “but can occur much later,” the agency stated.

“Of those who recover, many are left with disabling and progressive mental and physical sequelae, which can range from minimal brain dysfunction to severe intellectual impairment, personality disorders, seizures, paralysis, and cranial nerve dysfunction. Many patients with severe sequelae die within a few years.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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