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HEALTH & WELLNESS: First human cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Vermont confirmed

One of the first two people diagnosed with Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in Vermont has died. The other confirmed case—also an adult from the Addison/Rutland County area—was hospitalized, according to the Health Department. Mosquito pools in the area recently tested positive for EEE and West Nile virus.

Like West Nile virus, EEE is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Health and agriculture officials will likely begin an aerial spraying program in the next few days.

“The severe form of EEE is a terrible disease, and we want to take every reasonable action to prevent people from becoming infected,” said Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD. “These viruses will continue to circulate until the first freeze. Although spraying will help reduce the risk of infection, it’s important that we all take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites no matter where we live.”

This is the first time EEE has been confirmed in humans in the state. “Mosquito surveillance is limited. Although we’ve detected EEE and West Nile in one area of the state, we want Vermonters to know that these viruses could be circulating anywhere,” said Erica Berl, infectious disease epidemiologist with the Health Department.

People who are infected with EEE can develop two types of illness. One has a sudden onset and is characterized by chills, fever, malaise, joint and muscle pain, and lasts one to two weeks. The more severe illness affects the central nervous system and causes fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, convulsions and coma.

The Health Department reminds Vermonters to avoid mosquito bites:

  •  Wear long sleeves and pants.
  •  Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  •  Get rid of standing water to reduce mosquito breeding habitats.
  •  Use repellants that are labeled as effective against mosquitoes.
  •  Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
  •  Make sure your horses, emus, llamas and alpacas are vaccinated.

There is no vaccine for humans.

For more information on mosquito-borne illness, visit the Health Department’s website, http://healthvermont.gov/prevent/arbovirus/index.aspx.