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Mosquito-Borne Diseases in Southern Massachusetts

Tis the season for mosquito-borne diseases. Two cases of West Nile Virus have been reported in the state in the last few weeks and more are sure to come. While mosquitoes are a nuisance all summer long and they can transmit diseases at any time, a spike in human cases of mosquito-borne illnesses usually occurs in late summer and early fall. This season we are seeing West Nile Virus in mosquito pools and a couple of human cases, but we usually see a few human cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a rare but more deadly mosquito-borne disease.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Plymouth

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), coined Triple-E, has been in the state of Massachusetts longer than any other state and our state has far more human cases of EEE than the next closest state. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) we have had 24 cases between 2004-2013 while the next most infected state of Florida comes in at 15 human cases of EEE. As reported in the Lowell Sun, EEE is carried by mosquitoes born in swamps who have bitten birds carrying the disease. The mosquitoes spread EEE further when they feed on the blood of mammals in cattail marshes. With swamps and marshes aplenty in southeastern Mass, we are a perfect hotbed for EEE. In fact, Plymouth County has had the most cases of EEE in the state.

EEE and Horses

So where does the “equine” fit in? Horses are at a particular risk for infection from EEE. They are a dead-end host of EEE, meaning they cannot pass it on to un-infected mosquitoes or other animals. EEE is extremely dangerous to horses, symptoms can include depression, blindness, staggering and seizures as the disease attacks the central nervous system. Death can occur within just a few days when a horse contracts this deadly disease. The good news is there is a vaccine for horses and it is highly recommended. Contact your veterinarian if you think your horse has contracted EEE or read more on prevention and symptoms of EEE in horses.

Human Symptoms of EEE

Unfortunately there is no vaccine or specific anti-viral treatment for EEE in humans. Luckily this disease is rare, but it is dangerous with approximately 1/3 of all people who contract EEE dying from the disease. According to the CDC, about 4-10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito symptoms will begin to show. Two types of illness may occur, systemic or encephalitic.

Systemic Illness from EEE

Chills, depression, fever, muscle and joint aches can occur with the abrupt onset of system infection from EEE. Systemic illness usually lasts 1-2 weeks and a full recovery can be made when the infection doesn’t reach the central nervous system.

Encephalitic Illness from EEE

Encephalitic illness can have an abrupt onset in infants, but in older children and adults it usually comes on after several days of systemic illness. Signs of encephalitic illness from EEE infection can include fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, diarrhea, vomiting, convulsions and coma. A third of all EEE patients die from the disease and those who survive can be left with disabling mental and physical dysfunction.

EEE Prevention Plymouth Mass

Protecting yourself and your family from EEE is extremely important, especially in South Shore Massachusetts.  With Plymouth having the unfortunate distinction as the top county for EEE cases, EEE prevention is key.

Avoiding mosquitoes and mosquito bites is your best method of prevention, but doesn’t have to mean you are stuck indoors. With our traditional mosquito barrier treatment we can eliminate up to 90% of the mosquitoes in your yard. To further protect yourself, your family and your pets, our automatic mosquito control misting system is a great solution for large, wooded and marshy yards as well as being a perfect solution for your barns, stables and horse pastures. And don’t forget to follow the 5 T’s of mosquito control.