08/29/2019 12:51 PM EDT
AUGUSTA, Maine – Northeastern states are reporting a very active season for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a potentially fatal disease transmitted by mosquitoes. While Maine has not reported EEE activity since 2015, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) urges residents and visitors to take precautions to minimize risk of exposure to themselves and their animals.
Public health officials in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have seen significant increases in EEE activity this year. Massachusetts is reporting four human cases and one human death, as well as four animal deaths from EEE. Many states also have positive results in humans and mosquitoes for West Nile virus (WNV), which causes similar symptoms to EEE. There have been no confirmed cases of WNV in Maine this year.
"Although no human cases of EEE have been reported in Maine since 2015, it is important for all Mainers to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites," said Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah. "We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors while taking extra precautions to protect their health."
Maine CDC advises residents and visitors to protect themselves and their children by minimizing outdoor activity from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. If outdoor activity is unavoidable, take personal precautions to prevent mosquito bites, including:
- Use an EPA-approved repellent
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants
- Treat clothing and gear with Permethrin
- Take steps to control mosquitoes around your property by emptying artificial sources of standing water, fixing holes in screens, and working with a pesticide control applicator.
EEE was first detected in birds in Maine in 2001. It is a serious but rare illness caused by a virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes, which acquire the virus by feeding on infected wild birds. In most years, the virus is found first in species of mosquitoes that feed on birds, and occasionally in other mosquito species known to bite people and horses. The virus cannot be passed from person to person or from horses to humans.
The risk of mosquito-transmitted diseases such as EEE and WNV usually increases through the late summer and early fall. Mosquitoes are active until the second heavy frost.
Infection with EEE virus can cause serious illness affecting the brain. Some persons infected with EEE have no obvious symptoms. In those persons who do develop illness, symptoms range from mild flu-like illness to high fever, headache, stiff neck, and decreased consciousness. Approximately one in every three individuals who are infected with EEE die and many of those who recover experience lasting health problems. Individuals with symptoms suggestive of EEE infection should contact their physician immediately. No human vaccine against EEE and WNV infection is available. There is no specific antiviral treatment for EEE or WNV infections.
Maine has many resources regarding mosquito-borne diseases:
- Maine CDC's vectorborne disease website www.maine.gov/dhhs/vectorborne includes fact sheets on EEE and WNV.
- Short videos on mosquito-borne diseases, mosquito habitat, and repellent use are available at www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/videos.shtml or through Maine CDC's YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/MainePublicHealth.
- Information about Maine CDC monitoring of mosquito-borne illnesses is available atwww.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/vector-borne/arboviral-surveillance.shtml.
- For more information about EEE and WNV prevention, visit this CDC website:www.cdc.gov/EEE/ or www.cdc.gov/westnile.