VERMONT – The Vermont Department of Health (DOH) says that Vermonters are at risk for serious illness from mosquito bites.
Two people in Vermont are infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and several independent sources say that one, an 86-year-old man, has died from the disease. Another hospitalized patient is thought to have West Nile Virus. Both diseases are contracted from mosquito bites.
This is the first time EEE was been found in humans in Vermont.
Due to the “significant risk to human health,” Vermont has conducted aerial spraying in Rutland and Addison counties where several areas of stagnant water tested positive for mosquitoes carrying the viruses, although the virus can be anywhere, the Department of Health states.
The pesticide Anvil 10+10 (Sumithrin) was sprayed in “very low volume concentrations” at dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Anvil is similar to the pesticides used on pets and animals to control fleas and ticks.
“The pesticide application is warranted to mitigate the significant public health risk posed by the infected mosquitoes in these areas,” said Health Commissioner Harry Chen.
Exposure risks of Anvil for people and other mammals are very low, according to the DOH. However, the state recommends avoiding exposure and taking precautions such as keeping windows closed and not using fans that bring in outside air during spraying times.
EEE is a rare but serious disease that most commonly affects people and horses, but can affect other animals.
Not everyone who gets bit by a mosquito carrying EEE or West Nile virus (WNV) gets sick. Symptoms range from mild to severe. There is no specific treatment for either EEE or WNV. People age 50 and over are at the greatest risk of becoming sick from the WNV, but everyone is at risk for EEE, the more serious of the two. Both could lead to death.
WNV was first detected in Africa in the 1930s and has now spread globally. WNV can lead to encephalitis (swelling on the brain). Symptoms include but are not limited to headache, stiff neck, fever and nausea.
EEE was first identified in Massachusetts in the late 1800s in horses. Later it was identified in humans. Symptoms include fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting and coma, among others.
Both are viruses that wild birds carry and transmission occurs when a mosquito bites an affected animal and then bites something else. The greatest risk occurs in late August and September.
There is no vaccine for either virus, although there is a vaccine for horses against EEE.
The Department of Health says all Vermonters should take the following actions to protect themselves from mosquito bites and risk of infection from EEE and WNV:
* Remove standing water around your house;
* Limit the amount of time spent outdoors at dawn and dusk;
* Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants outside when mosquitoes are active; and
* Use insect repellents labeled effective against mosquitoes.