by Deirdre Wilson and Amy McCarthy
Massachusetts public health officials are on the lookout for mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) this summer.
Both illnesses are transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, who become infected after feeding on a bird with the virus. In Massachusetts, it hasn’t been a bad year for West Nile virus, but public health officials are noting a bigger prevalence of mosquitoes carrying EEE, a much more dangerous illness. Some communities have done emergency spraying to kill any disease-carrying mosquitoes.
Here’s what you need to know about both illnesses and how to protect your family:
EEE is a rare, but deadly disease, with no treatment. Since first identified here in 1938, less than 100 cases have been recorded. Outbreaks usually occur every 10-20 years and typically last two to three years.
Symptoms include high fever, stiff neck, headache and lack of energy and show up within three to 10 days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Inflammation and swelling of the brain is the most dangerous complication. The disease gets worse quickly and can lead to death or disability.
About West Nile Virus
Most people who contract West Nile Virus don’t experience symptoms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Around 80 percent of those infected will never know they’ve had the disease. But infection can sometimes cause serious complications – especially in those with compromised immune systems, or the very young or old.
Around 20 percent will experience flu-like symptoms that can last up to several weeks, including fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash. One in 150 people who contract the virus will experience serious symptoms – high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. Some conditions may be permanent.
Massachusetts public health officials have not reported any human cases of the disease this summer (as of Aug. 10, 2012), but have found some evidence of mosquitoes carrying the disease.
Stay indoors at dusk and dawn. This is when mosquitoes are most likely to be active. If you have to be outside during these hours, take additional precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
- Wear an EPA-approved mosquito repellant. The CDC recommends a spray with DEET, but there are also some effective natural remedies on the market.
- Even though it’s hot outside, wear long sleeves and pants, especially at dawn and dusk.
- Mosquitoes need water to breed, so get rid of any standing water in your lawn. Check pet water dishes, flower pots, lawn furniture, play equipment, etc.
- If your child uses a wading pool, empty it when your child is finished playing and store upside down or on its side.
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Amy McCarthy is Content & Community Manager for Parenthood.com. Deirdre Wilson is senior editor of the Boston Parents Paper.