Outbreak of brain-swelling EEE virus in US claims 10th life – as communities put on high alert

Outbreak of brain-swelling EEE virus in US claims 10th life – as communities put on high alert

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ANOTHER person has died from a brain-swelling mosquito virus in the US – taking the death toll to ten.

Health officials confirmed a man in his seventies from Massachusetts had died after contracting Eastern equine encephalitis.

People are being told to stay indoors after a tenth person died from a brain-swelling mosquito virus
AP:Associated Press

It comes as cases of EEE reach unprecedented levels, with health officials urging people to stay inside after dusk.

Health officials in Massachusetts confirmed the fourth death in the state yesterday after being informed by a local hospital.

And following this news, they decide to elevate several more communities to high risk.

EEE virus has been found in 422 mosquito samples in Massachusetts this year, according to the department, many in species that are capable of spreading the virus to humans.

Mosquito bites

State Epidemiologist Dr Catherine Brown said: “Although mosquito populations are declining at this time of year, risk from EEE will continue until the first hard frost.

“We continue to emphasise the need for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”

The public have been urged to avoid mosquito bites by wearing bug repellent and long-sleeve clothing and staying indoors after dark.

There are usually only between five and ten cases of the disease every year in the entire US.

Rising temperatures

But 2019 has been exceptional, with nearly as many deaths as expected cases.

As well as the four deaths in Massachusetts, there have been three deaths in Michigan, two in Connecticut and one in Rhode Island.

It’s thought rising temperatures and patterns in bird migrations has fuelled the rise in the virus, which causes life-threatening brain infections.

Gregg McChesney, 64, went from healthy to brain dead in just nine days after contracting Eastern equine encephalitis
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Among 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.”

Sleeping sickness

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
  • Seizures
  • 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.


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.


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