Labor Day weekend is here and many of us are gearing up for a 3 day weekend. Our minds are on our upcoming beach day, BBQ, or gathering with friends. We are not likely thinking about mosquito protection. I realize that every time I’ve mentioned something awesome this year, I have followed it up with all the horrible things that you need to be aware of when you participate in them. So, I’ve sort of been a “Debbie-downer” if you will. (No offense to all the Debbies out there. You’re all lovely and not at all “downers”). However, the current health concern I’ll cover today is no joke. Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, as it is being referred to on the news, can be a serious mosquito transmitted viral infection.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis was first recognized in Massachusetts horses in 1831. The first human infection was noted in New England in 1938. The virus is transmitted from infected birds to humans (and horses) through the bite of an infected mosquito. Although infections can occur throughout the year, the peak incidence of infection is during August and September.
If someone is bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus, there is typically an incubation period of 4-10 days before symptoms present. The illness will present with several days of fever, headache, nausea and vomiting. Approximately, 2 % of adults and 6% of children will go on to develop encephalitis. Unfortunately, once the neurological symptoms begin – including confusion, seizure, lethargy- the condition deteriorates rapidly with patients becoming comatose. EEE is the most severe of the encephalitis inducing viral infections with a 30% mortality. Survivors are often left with chronic debilitating neurological disabilities.
There is no treatment for EEE, so the focus is on prevention. Try to avoid being out at dusk or dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. Avoid having standing water at your home, if you can, as this allows for mosquito breeding grounds. Make sure your window screens are intact (as you enjoy a cool summer breeze at night, don’t let in the unwanted guests). And, finally, if you know you are going to be in mosquito infested areas or just outdoors for a long while during peak mosquito hours, use a repellent such as DEET.
“But you just told us a couple of blogs ago how good nature is for us.” I know, I know – and it is. I want you go get outside and have an amazing rest of your summer – I just want you to do it safely. So, by all means, get out there and enjoy nature… just bring the DEET.
- Brooke Rieth NP