Onondaga County EEE infection: so… what the hell is EEE, anyway?

Onondaga County got it’s first reported case of EEE infection, and the patient is in critical condition. But what is it?

Channel 10 reports this AM that a rare case of the EEE virus has been reported in Onondaga County and the patient is in critical condition… but then never really goes on to explain what EEE is, exactly. Not even so much as to explain what the acronym means. Sigh.

According to the CDC, eastern equine encephalitis virus – acronymically EEE or EEEV – is an arbovirus, or a virus most commonly borne by arthopods like the mosquito. Other, non-related viruses include malaria, West Nile and some types of swine flu. Triple-E as it is occasionally known, is believed to be carried over long distances by birds, but the equal opportunity parasite mosquito is the vector for transferring the virus from birds to humans. Humans cannot give other people the virus.

The troubling word in the Triple-E acronym is “encephalitis,” which means the swelling of the brain. But really, most people who get Triple-E never show signs of symptoms. Again from the CDC:

Most persons infected with EEEV have no apparent illness. Severe cases of EEE (involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, or coma. EEE is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with approximately 33% mortality and significant brain damage in most survivors.

So, that 33% mortality rate is worth getting chills over. But really, the disease is actually quite rare, even in developing nations. Here in the United States, there are a scant 8 cases a year, on average.

If you really must take precautions against the Triple-E, your best bet is to follow the same basic rules you’ve always followed to avoid mosquito bites. Namely, wear long sleeves when in doubt and apply a good mosquito protection before going outside.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.