Did you know that through history mosquitoes have caused more human deaths than any other animal? It’s true. Being vectors of serious diseases makes the deadly mosquito scarier than sharks, bears, lions and other “dangerous” animals.
The first case of West Nile Virus (WNV) for the year has been reported near Houston Texas. The Massachusetts Health and Human Services Department will begin daily arbovirus testing on June 15, both of these events definitively marking the beginning of mosquito-borne disease season. Reported cases of West Nile and EEE will be mapped so that you can see county by county if the disease is in your area. If you check out the daily updates you can see that risks for EEE are already moderate in Westminster and will continue to go up and spread as the summer goes on. Arbovirus is simply an umbrella term for a group of viruses that are transmitted by arthropod vectors.
EEE IN CENTRAL MASSACHUSETTS
Mosquito-borne illnesses are the most common Arboviruses. Since Central MA is already at an increased risk for Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEE or EEEV) this season and we had a reported fatal case of it in Massachusetts last year, it is important to know a few things about it. A sudden onset of headache, fever, chills, and vomiting is the first sign of a severe case of EEE, but many people who become infected have no apparent illness. As the disease progresses disorientation, seizures, or coma can occur. With a 33% mortality rate and significant brain damage in many survivors, EEE is one of the most dangerous mosquito-transmitted diseases in the U.S.
If you suspect you could have EEE you should see a doctor right away for evaluation. Supportive therapy such as IV fluids, respiratory support and protection from other infections might be recommended. It is important in the case of EEE not to wait to see a doctor as those patients who pass away from the infection can pass as quickly as 2-10 days after onset of symptoms.
WEST NILE VIRUS IN CENTRAL MASSACHUSETTS
The season for West Nile Virus (WNV) is upon us. While a case has not been confirmed in our area, it is best to know what to look for before it gets here. First off, 70-80% of people who get West Nile Virus do not develop any symptoms. The common symptoms of West Nile can include fever with headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months but generally most people recover completely.
Severe cases of West Nile Virus occur in less than 1% of those infected. These cases can develop into neurological illnesses such as meningitis or encephalitis. Symptoms can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis. People with diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, or hypertension are at a much greater risk for serious illness from West Nile Virus. About 10% of people who develop the severe neurologic infection do not survive and those who do recover can take weeks or months to do so.
Both EEE and WNV are viruses that are hosted by birds. The mosquitoes bite the bird then bite humans and other mammals passing the virus on to us. Without the mosquito the virus would stay within the bird population. Unlike birds, if a human has WNV or EEE and is bitten by an uninfected mosquito, that mosquito does not carry the virus to other humans. Mammals are considered a “dead-end” host because the virus concentration in our blood does not reach a high enough level for us to infect a mosquito.
Mosquito control is the best prevention of WNV and EEE. Start on your property with our barrier spray. Eliminating mosquitoes on contact and continuing to work for up to 3 weeks means our mosquito spray effectively eliminates 85-90% of mosquitoes in your Central Massachusetts yard.