Authorities have confirmed a rising number of Eastern equine encephalitis cases in the U.S. after two additional instances of the mosquito-borne virus appeared in Michigan and Ohio this week.
EEE is a rare disease caused by a virus that “can cause inflammation of the brain (encephalitis),” according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The disease, transmitted by infected mosquitos, can target the central nervous system, with approximately a third of all cases ending in death. Those who survive often continue to experience lasting neurological issues.
Symptoms of EEE can take from four to 10 days to appear after the initial infection.
Generally, the disease only affects a few people in the United States each year, with these cases occurring primarily in coastal areas. However, in recent weeks, multiple cases have popped up in unexpected places.
Most recently, a horse in northern Ohio was found with the disease, the Ohio Department of Agriculture confirmed to WKYC.
“On August 17 at 4:30 pm our lives were flipped completely upside and shaken like never before. I remember them telling me in the ER that she would be out of here in 3 to 4 days and here I sit on night 11,” the teenager’s mother, Kerri Lynn Dooley wrote on Facebook.
Dehart was supposed to start her freshman year of high school this week.
“She was so excited to start school,” Dooley told the Detroit Free Press.
Dehart’s symptoms began with a headache but soon worsened.
“By Saturday morning my daughter was not my daughter. She could hardly walk, very confused, glazed face and couldn’t speak at all,” Dooley wrote in a separate Facebook post.
“We’ve been in contact with the principal there to talk about what our next steps will be. It’s been pretty difficult.”
Dooley said that even though her daughter has gotten bug bites before, the family “never suspected a mosquito could have caused this.”
Three other patients in Michigan are currently suspected to have EEE. For the illness to appear in two landlocked states is very unusual, and authorities are warning anyone who is concerned to take precautions.
When a fourth victim died after contracting EEE in the state of Massachusetts, the Department of Health issued a media release urging people to avoid coming into contact with potential carriers by paying attention to their surroundings, staying indoors during peak mosquito hours or by wearing long sleeves and pants.
There is currently no vaccine for EEE and treatment is only moderately successful, given the rarity of the disease.
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