PEOPLE are being told to stay indoors after two more died from a brain-swelling mosquito virus – taking the death toll to nine.
Health officials confirmed James Longworth, 78, from Massachusetts, and Patricia Shaw, 77, from Connecticut both passed away after contracting the viral infection.
And US experts are now warning residents not to go out after dusk as cases of Eastern equine encephalitis reach unprecedented levels.
Patricia was the first person to die of EEE in Connecticut and the second case overall in the state this year.
Her local priest Fr Brian Maxwell described her as a “kind and gentle” wife and mother.
There are usually only between five and 10 cases of the disease every year in the entire US.
The ongoing cases reported in humans and animals and the severity of this disease illustrate the importance of taking precautions against mosquito bites
Dr Joneigh Khaldun
But 2019 has been exceptional, with nearly as many deaths as expected cases, and dozens of patients in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and Michigan.
It’s thought rising temperatures and patterns in bird migrations has fuelled the rise in the virus, which causes life-threatening brain infections.
Dr Joneigh Khaldun, director and health officer for the Detroit Health Department, said: “Michigan is currently experiencing its worst Eastern Equine Encephalitis outbreak in more than a decade.
“The ongoing cases reported in humans and animals and the severity of this disease illustrate the importance of taking precautions against mosquito bites.”
One of the victims is 64-year-old Gregg McChesney, from Michigan, who died from the virus on August 19.
His brother Mark says he went from healthy to brain dead in nine days after catching contracting Eastern equine encephalitis.
He told CNN affiliate WOOD: “All of a sudden he had a seizure and next thing you know, he’s in the ER and he just never came out of it.”
The virus, known as triple E (EEEV) or sleeping sickness, is a rare cause of brain infections spread to people by infected mosquitoes.
While there’s usually only an average of seven cases of the virus reported in the US each year, it’s known to be fatal about 30 per cent of the the time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency says on its website: “Persons over age 50 and under age 15 seem to be at greatest risk for developing severe disease when infected with EEEV.
“EEEV infection can result in one of two types of illness, systemic or encephalitic (involving swelling of the brain, referred to below as EEE).
“The type of illness will depend on the age of the person and other host factors.”
What are the symptoms of encephalitis?
Encephalitis is a serious condition which causes the sufferer’s brain to swell.
It can be life threatening and and requires urgent treatment in hospital.
Anyone can be affected by the disease but the very young and elderly are most at risk.
According to the NHS website, symptoms can start off flu-like – including a high temperature and headache – but this isn’t always the case.
More serious symptoms develop over hours, days or weeks, including:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Changes in personality and behaviour
- Difficulty speaking
- Weakness or loss of movement in some parts of the body
- Loss of consciousness
If someone has any of these more serious symptoms, dial 999 immediately.
People who contract the virus typically start to notice symptoms about four to 10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, according to the CDC.
These include a fever, headache, chills, diarrhoea and irritability.
The agency says: “Death usually occurs two to 10 days after onset of symptoms but can occur much later.
“Of those who recover, many are left with disabling and progressive mental and physical sequelae, which can range from minimal brain dysfunction to severe intellectual impairment, personality disorders, seizures, paralysis, and cranial nerve dysfunction.
“Many patients with severe sequelae die within a few years.”
Earlier this year we reported that the mosquito-borne virus was detected in chickens in Florida.
MORE ON HEALTH
It is more common in the Sunshine state as the mosquitoes prefer its swampy landscape.
They then bite the birds that spend their winter there before migrating back to New England, where native mosquitoes bite them.
Those bugs then contract the virus and go on to bite humans and other animals, including horses.
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at [email protected] or call 0207 782 4368 . You can WhatsApp us on 07810 791 502. We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours.