In a scary turn of events, the Department of Health in Orange County, Florida announced that researchers found a deadly virus in the area. It believes mosquitos are behind the spread of the virus.
Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) causes rapid brain swelling and possible death in around a third of those infected. While no human cases from the current spread have been identified yet, experts fear they may be right around the corner.
Population at Risk
Typically, EEEV stays hidden in swampy, remote areas. However, when it does mingle with humans, the results can be devastating. Just like with malaria, one bite from an infected mosquito is enough to transmit the killer virus.
Considering that Orange County is home to Orlando and has a population of more than 1.1 million people, the presence of the virus is extremely concerning.
Researchers found signs of EEEV in a flock of so-called sentinel chickens in the area. The local government uses these chickens to monitor the spread of infectious diseases before they reach people. Since mosquitos are biting them, it means they could start biting humans next.
EEEV isn’t a virus to mess around with. In a matter of days, it can cause fatal symptoms in those infected. Fortunately, most who fall ill only develop flu-like symptoms. Others aren’t so lucky.
In some cases, EEEV is capable of causing rapid brain swelling. This leads to headaches, confusion, seizures, coma, and eventually death if not treated. Unfortunately, by the time many people realize something is wrong, it’s too late. EEEV can kill its victims in as little as two days after symptoms appear.
If there’s a bright side, it’s that humans are the end of the road for the virus. Once inside the body, it can’t replicate itself enough to allow other mosquitos to become infected. EEEV also cannot spread from person-to-person.
Again, as of now, there have been no reported human cases of EEEV related to the spread of the virus in Orange County. However, there is an average of seven cases annually in the United States.
While there is no vaccine for EEEV nor a specific treatment, those in affected areas can take steps to avoid it. Whenever mosquitos are present, insect repellants should be used. Formulas with DEET, picaridin, or lemon eucalyptus oil are typically the most effective.
On top of this, people who work, live, or travel to areas where lots of mosquitos are present should wear long pants and sleeves to help avoid the chance of being bitten.
For now, EEEV being present in chickens isn’t a reason to panic. However, the situation will be closely monitored by the local government. Meanwhile, scientists will continue working on clever ways to help combat mosquito populations. Eventually, viruses being spread by mosquitos like EEEV will be a thing of the past.