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How to Protect Yourself Against EEE and West Nile Virus

Saturday, July 14, 2012

 

The Worcester Department of Public Health is ramping up its “Fight the Bite” campaign after the summer’s first cases of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) infected mosquitoes was reported in Easton this week. Although a case of EEE has never been reported in Worcester, Director of Public Health Derek Brindisi said that it is important for people to be aware of the dangers.

“Instances of infection are very, very low; however, they can be very serious,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that only 4 to 5 percent of humans infected with the virus actually develop EEE, which is characterized by swelling of the brain. Of those who do, a third die and many survivors suffer permanent brain damage.

West Nile virus, which is more common than EEE, can also be fatal. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports that between 2000 and 2010, 67 residents were infected with the virus, resulting in 6 deaths. Brindisi warned West Nile virus cases can go unreported or undiagnosed because the symptoms, such as fever, headache, and swollen glands, can be confused with more common ailments.

Because they are viruses, there is no treatment for EEE or West Nile Virus. As a result, prevention is crucial. The “Fight the Bite” campaign advises people to take the following measures to help stop the spread of these viruses:

  • Eliminate standing water. Mosquitoes will breed in almost any standing water, including in tires, barrels, and drains. Brindisi warned that vacant land and properties are likely to be sources of standing water and urged people to be aware of their environment.
  • Limit outdoor activity between dusk and dawn. Mosquitoes are most active during these hours, so it is best to avoid being outdoors at these times. If you do have to go outside, wear long sleeves and pants to reduce the risk of being bitten. Pets are also vulnerable to infection so they should be kept inside as well.
  • Keep screens tight and replace or repair screens with holes in them.
  • Wear insect repellant containing DEET or Picaridin when outside during the hours between dusk and dawn.

For instantaneous updates on these viruses and other public health issues follow the Worcester Department of Public Health on Twitter, @WorcesterDPH, and on Facebook.
 

 

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