Potentially fatal mosquito-borne EEE virus detected in Delaware

A potentially deadly mosquito-borne virus has been detected in Delaware, state officials said.

State officials on Friday announced they have detected Eastern Equine Encephalitis, more commonly known as EEE, in the sentinel chickens located in southwestern New Castle County, east-central Kent County, and southeastern Sussex County.

Sentinel chickens are placed in areas with mosquito problems so their blood can be drawn regularly to check for bug-borne viruses.

“No human or equine cases of EEE or [West Nile virus] have been reported to date this year in Delaware,” state officials added.

EEE, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a rare disease that’s spread by infected mosquitoes. EEE “is one of a group of mosquito-transmitted viruses that can cause inflammation of the brain (encephalitis),” the federal health agency says.

EEE is more common in Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, though the CDC said some cases have been reported in the Great Lakes area. It’s rare; only 5 to 10 cases are reported each year in the US.

Symptoms of EEE typically appear four to 10 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. Severe cases of the virus “begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting,” per the CDC, which noted, “the illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, and coma.”

One-third of those infected with EEE die, while survivors typically have “mild to severe brain damage.”

There’s no specific treatment for the infection, either.

“Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, and no effective antiviral drugs have been discovered. Severe illnesses are treated by supportive therapy which may include hospitalization, respiratory support, IV fluids, and prevention of other infections,” the CDC says.

The best way to prevent EEE and other mosquito-borne ailments is by draining standing water — like in birdbaths, buckets or on pool covers — as stagnant water can serve as a breeding ground for these insects. Other preventative measures include covering skin with long-sleeved pants and shirts while outside, and “properly using insect repellent containing DEET or another EPA-recognized ingredient whenever outdoors,” Delaware officials added.

Separately, Florida health officials announced in late July that several sentinel chickens in the state tested positive for EEE.

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