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Taylor de Lench
Taylor de Lench

Eastern Equine Encephalitis

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As a Boston based rock climber, I spend much of my free time outdoors in dense New England forests, and I come in contact with all types of biting insects. I’ve felt the sting of black flies and the maddening itch of no-see-ums, and have been chased back to my car by clouds of swarming mosquitoes. I usually come back from my trips sore, scratched and bitten, my fingertips worn thin, but safe.

Last summer, however, I contracted Lyme disease after a visit to a state park in New Hampshire and a donation of blood to a local deer tick. A few days later I saw the bulls-eye rash and immediately went on antibiotics, inhibiting the incubation for chronic Lyme disease, a devastating illness. I dodged a bullet, but others have not been as lucky.

Recently, I have become disturbed by the information I have been reading about a less publicized, but very real and deadly virus carried by mosquitoes called Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

After multiple cases of EEE were found in local mosquitoes schools in southeastern Massachusetts and Connecticut have cancelled and rescheduled games and practices to less dangerous times of day. New Bedford schools have been having recess indoors until the first frost to eliminate the threat.  Mosquitoes are still out and biting, though in significantly lower numbers. Late afternoon is still dangerous.

Although the infection rate for the Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEEV) is low, the virus is lethal, affecting the central nervous system  and causing death in a third of its victims and serious brain damage in survivors.

If you live on the east coast, play on a sports team and have to be outside at dusk, take a few precautions against EEE and West Nile Virus (also carried by mosquitoes):

  • Wear long sleeved pants/shirts if possible
  • Use DEET or Picardin based insect repellents
  • Should you feel the following symptoms 4-10 days after being bitten (fever, stiff neck, headaches and lethargy) get medical attention immediately.