Potentially fatal mosquito virus EEE detected again in York County

Posted Aug. 20, 2013, at 12:13 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 20, 2013, at 2:43 p.m.

State public health officials have detected Eastern equine encephalitis in a second batch of mosquitoes collected in York County.

Last week, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced in a statewide health alert that the potentially fatal disease was detected in a batch of mosquitoes at a collection site in Alfred, marking the first confirmed presence of EEE in the state this year.

On Tuesday, Maine CDC announced in a news release that EEE was detected in another batch of mosquitoes collected in the town of York.

The EEE virus can cause serious illness in humans, large animals such as horses and some species of birds.

In 2012, a flock of 30 farm-raised pheasants in Lebanon died from Eastern equine encephalitis. The state also recorded its first-ever human case of West Nile virus, another infection spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, in a Cumberland County man.

EEE is rarer than West Nile, but more deadly. The virus can cause inflammation of the brain and leads to death in 35 percent to 50 percent of cases. Last fall, a Vermont man died of EEE.

EEE has not been detected in humans in Maine. It reappeared in the state after killing a number of horses in 2009.

Dr. Sheila Pinette, director of Maine CDC, said in the release that additional positive tests for EEE are likely.

“We still have plenty of warm weather ahead in the next few weeks and this increases the possibility of additional positive pools,” she said.

Other New England states have detected EEE and West Nile this summer. A New Hampshire man contracted two related viruses never before seen in the state — Powassan virus, which is transmitted through a tick bite, and Jamestown Canyon virus, a mosquito-borne pathogen that circulates widely in North America but doesn’t typically sicken humans.

Two horses have tested positive for EEE in Massachusetts.

“EEE is a very serious illness,” Dr. Stephen Sears, state epidemiologist, said in the release. “Mainers need to take appropriate precautions against mosquitoes to prevent this illness.”

Maine CDC recommends the following preventive measures to protect against EEE, West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses:

• Avoid spending time outdoors at dawn and dusk when many species of mosquitoes are most active.

• Use an EPA-approved repellent when outdoors, especially around dawn and dusk, and always follow the instructions on the product’s label.

• Wear protective clothing when outdoors, including long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks.

• Use screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the home.

• Empty standing water where mosquitoes can breed, such as from flower pots, buckets and barrels.

 

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