WEST WARWICK, R.I. — At least three people have died in the United States after contracting the fatal mosquito-borne illness Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) this year.
The Rhode Island Department of Health announced the death of an adult in their 50s from West Warwick, Rhode Island on Monday. It’s the state’s first human case since 2010 and the first fatal case since 2007, according to a press release from the agency.
The individual died Sunday only nine days after the state announced the confirmed case. They were the second person to die within a week in the United States from the rare disease.
Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services in Michigan reported Friday that a person in Kalamazoo county died from EEE. In late August, Massachusetts reported that a woman had died after being infected with the illness.
Typically, only 5 to 10 human cases of EEE are reported every year, but about 30% of all cases result in death, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Early symptoms of the disease occur about 4-10 days after exposure and can include headache, high fever, chills, body and joint aches. It can develop into severe encephalitis or brain swelling which can cause tremors, seizures and paralysis.
The Rhode Island Department of Health has sprayed mosquito treatments in four areas following the death, a release from the agency said.
A horse in Westerly, Rhode Island was diagnosed with EEE and two mosquitoes carrying the disease have been detected have occurred in Central Falls, with two others in Westerly. It added that mosquitoes carrying EEE have been identified in Massachusetts and Connecticut this year, some in areas that border Rhode Island.
Michigan advises residents to stay inside at night
In Michigan, there have been at least three confirmed cases, including the person who died, and two possible cases of the illness, a press release from Michigan Health officials said.
They are warning residents in Kalamazoo County and Berrien County, where the cases occurred, to use protective spray and clothing and avoid outdoor activity at night to avoid getting bitten.
“We strongly encourage residents to take precautions such as using insect repellent with DEET, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors during the peak mosquito-biting hours which are dusk and dawn.” said James Rutherford, Health Officer of Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department.
The Massachusetts woman died after contracting the disease in August. Laurie Sylvia was the fourth person infected with EEE in the state.
Sylvia was being treated at Tufts Medical Center in Boston after contracting the dangerous mosquito-borne virus that causes brain swelling in humans, said Jeremy Lechan, Tufts’ senior media relations specialist.