MIAMI, Florida – The Florida Department of Health in Orange County are warning residents of a rare and deadly mosquito-borne virus that has been newly detected in the state.
The virus, called Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) has been found in several sentinel chickens (chickens that are tested regularly for viruses) and health officials are warning that it can spread to humans via infected mosquitoes and cause brain infection and swelling.
The health department issued a statement last week Thursday saying “the risk of transmission to humans has increased” following the discovery of the virus in the sentinel chickens in Orange County. Although the chickens do not show the effects of the virus, the presence of EEE can be detected in their blood.
Only about seven cases of the EEE virus in humans are reported in the US each year, however, the disease can be fatal. About 30% of people who contract it die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many survivors have ongoing neurologic problems.
People develop symptoms about 4 to 10 days after they are bitten by an infected mosquito, the CDC says. Signs include sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. More severe symptoms include disorientation, seizures, and coma.
With heatwaves affecting many states and cities in the United States, including Florida, the presence of mosquitoes have increased. Officials warned people to avoid being bitten by draining standing water around their homes, covering skin with clothing or repellant, and using screens to cover doors and windows.