— CATHY ZHOU ‘21
Recently, another Massachusetts resident died of EEE. This marks the fourth death out of the 11 confirmed cases. What’s more alarming is that Southborough has an EEE risk level of “critical”, according to the map presented by the state government. However, even under these circumstances, there is no need to worry as long as we follow some simple steps of prevention. The rest of this article will provide basic information about EEE, and precautions to take.
What is the EEE?
The Eastern Equine Encephalitis, abbreviated as EEE, is a virus, which means that there is no available treatment. Common symptoms of the illness develop three to ten days after the infection, including high fever, headache, stiff neck, and lack of energy. Around half of the infected patients die from this disease, and even people who survive are often permanently disabled. Given these serious health effects, we should take precautions to the best of our ability.
Why haven’t I heard of EEE before?
In fact, EEE infection is a very rare disease, with fewer than 100 identified cases since 1938 when it was discovered. Outbreaks of the virus usually happen in cycles of 10-20 years. Therefore, it is common that in some years, no case of EEE infection is found, while in other years, more cases are identified. For instance, the last outbreak was from 2010 to 2012, with a total of nine identified cases and four fatalities.
How can I prevent it?
On September 13th, pesticides were sprayed on the Athletic Quad and athletic fields to protect our student-athletes from mosquitoes. However, this does not mean that mosquitoes will not be in those areas; further steps for precaution has to be taken. “It is simple to not get EEE,” said Ms. Pavletic, the director of Health Services. The key to preventing this disease is reducing the chance of getting mosquito bites. Since mosquitoes are most active from dusk to dawn, avoiding being outside during that time of the day. Make sure that your window screens are functioning. Try not to go into woods or shades which are habitats for mosquitos. Wear long sleeves and put on bug spray when going outside. Avoid having standing water in rooms or dorms to prevent your living space from being a place where mosquitoes could reproduce. If correct prevention steps are taken, it is unlikely that you will be infected.
I got a mosquito bite.
Don’t worry. Getting a mosquito bite is not equivalent to contracting the disease. In fact, it is very unlikely that the mosquito carries the virus. You do not need to get tested for the EEE unless symptoms such as high fever and lack of energy start to occur. Keep taking precautions as mentioned above and prevent further mosquito bites to the best of your ability.
Will it continue next year?
According to the state government website, an outbreak of the disease typically can last for two to three years. In that sense, it is likely that there will be cases of EEE in the following year. This is because of the cycle of the virus. The cycle of an outbreak starts with infected birds that do not have symptoms of illness. Then, after a mosquito bites an infected bird, the mosquito becomes the vector, or the transmitter, of the virus, bringing the illness to humans. Since the lifespan of a bird could be around two to three years, the virus may remain in the area. However, according to Ms. Pavletic, the situation next year will depend on a variety of factors. “Some of it will depend on climate. Some of it will depend on the number of birds or the number of mosquitoes,” said Ms. Pavletic.