A rare, sometimes fatal, viral infection spread by coma reappeared in Massachusetts and probably sent at least one man into a coma. Over the weekend, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced that a local resident had infected equine encephalitis virus (EEE). Dozens of communities remain at critical or high risk for the virus and residents are advised to stay indoors overnight.
Massachusetts health officials did not name the victim, although they noted he was a resident of Plymouth County at age 60. WCVB 5 reported Tuesday that a woman claiming to be the man's daughter said in a Facebook post that she was in a coma as a result. Man is the first confirmed human case of EEE, reported since 201
"Today's news is evidence of the significant risk of EEE and we ask residents to take this risk very seriously," Public Health Commissioner Monica Brel said in a statement. released on Saturday. "We will continue to monitor this situation and the communities affected."
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EEE, as we wrote before, is a rare but potentially damaging threat to humans. The natural life cycle of a virus involves only mosquitoes and birds, and its main mosquito carrier tends to live far away from humans. But other human mosquitoes can catch it from infected birds and then infect humans. Most human infections with the virus are not serious, but the few that reach the brain can quickly prove fatal or cause lasting neurological symptoms. There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for EEE.
The absolute risk for EEE remains very rare. There are an average of seven cases of neurological infections caused by the virus reported annually, and in 2018 alone, six have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In comparison, the West Nile virus, the most common mosquito-borne disease in the United States, caused at least 1,600 such cases in 2018.
But while humans live in close proximity to mosquitoes, EEE is a possible danger to anyone. The areas most at risk of EEE are along the East Coast. Last July, Florida health officials reported the virus had been spotted in chickens. Connecticut health officials said Monday that mosquitoes in the state have recently tested positive for both EEE and West Nile.
In Massachusetts, health officials declared that nine communities were at high risk for EEE and another 15 were at high risk. They subsequently launched aerial spraying in some of these areas over the weekend and recommended that people use "mosquito repellent". and consider staying indoors at dusk until dawn to reduce mosquito exposure. "