A new version of the deadly virus is carried by mosquitoes, and it causes EEE or eastern equine encephalitis popularly called triple E. It has already infected eight people in Massachusetts, and it is no secret that the illness hit hard this year.
In previous years, there were around seven cases in the entire country annually. However, this year, the virus already killed three people, among which is a woman from Massachusetts. But what is the reason for Massachusetts being a target for this virus?
The Bay State has among the densest concentration of white cedar swamps and red maple on the entire east coast. According to the state’s epidemiologist, Dr. Catherine Brown, these swamps act as an engine for the triple E, and they drive its activity.
The reason for this is because birds that are infected with triple E migrate to Massachusetts from Florida every year. Florida also has problems with infection. These birds prefer mentioned white cedar swamps and red maple. However, the particular species of mosquitoes prefer this location as well, and their primary food is birds. While staying in these swamps, birds will become a blood meal for mosquitoes and thus pick up the virus.
There are other species of mosquitoes that feed on mammals that will from time to time feed on birds as well. As a result, the virus will easily become the gateway from birds to horses and eventually humans. Brown said that humans and horses are an accident and that they are dead-end hosts for the virus since it has nowhere to go from there.
Interestingly, the virus doesn’t kill birds, and over time, they will build up an immunity to the triple E. When this happens, the virus won’t be able to transmit among these birds as effectively, and it won’t be able to travel widely.
These birds with immunity will eventually die of old age, leaving only hatchlings that are again vulnerable to the virus. It is also possible that from time to time, birds that migrate will bring a different type of the triple E virus that none of the birds are immune to. Thanks to these occurrences, every ten or twenty years, there have been outbreaks in the state that can last up to several years.
When it comes to humans, this virus enters the central nervous system, and it causes inflammation in the brain. According to statistics, thirty percent of the people that get infected with triple E will die. Those that survive can encounter ongoing neural problems.
Brown said that the disease is quite rare and that there are no ways to treat it. In the past few years, there had been around seven cases on average. Massachusetts is not the only state with this issue, and other states are also having problems with triple E. Other two fatalities occurred in Michigan and Rhode Island.
On the bright side, mosquito season is coming to an end, and usually, triple E infections drop down to zero. However, people are quite nervous and concerned because of the widespread of the virus this year. The state is currently spraying pesticides in order to get rid of mosquitoes in areas that were marked as high-risk.
Currently, the best form of prevention is to avoid mosquito bites. Other forms are different repellents, as well as covering the entire body when outside. They also recommend avoiding any type of outdoor activities during the night.