The New Jersey Department of Health is encouraging residents to take steps to protect themselves from all mosquito-borne diseases including Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a rare virus transmitted to people and horses by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Two new human cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis were confirmed Thursday in Union and Atlantic counties. The Department confirmed the first human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in August.
Most persons infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis have no apparent illness, however, some can be very ill. Severe cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting 4 to 10 days after a mosquito bite. The illness may then progress to disorientation, seizures, or coma.
“While we are always concerned about more common mosquito-borne diseases, like West Nile virus, we also need to be vigilant for rare, but severe viruses, like Eastern Equine Encephalitis,” said Acting Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Individuals who are concerned they may have Eastern Equine Encephalitis should contact their health care provider right away.”
Eastern Equine Encephalitis is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the U.S. About one-third of people with Eastern Equine Encephalitis die from the disease and there is significant brain damage in most survivors. While there is a vaccine for horses, there is no vaccine for people.
Reducing exposure to mosquitoes is the best defense against infection with Eastern Equine Encephalitis and other mosquito-borne viruses.
There are several steps you and your family can take to prevent and control mosquito-borne diseases.
Prevent Mosquito bites:
- Use repellent: When outdoors, use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and/or clothing. The repellent/insecticide permethrin can be used on clothing to protect through several washes. Always follow package directions. Insect repellent should not be used on children less than 2 months old and oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children less than 3 years
- Wear protective clothing: Wear long sleeves/pants when weather permits
- Install and repair screens: Have secure, intact screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out and use air conditioning if you have it
Mosquitoes can lay eggs even in small amounts of standing water. You and your family can take the following steps to limit mosquitoes on your property and keep them from laying eggs near you:
- Empty standing water from flower pots, buckets, barrels, and tires. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Empty children’s wading pools and wheelbarrows and store on their side after use.
- Dispose of water-holding containers that have accumulated on your property, especially discarded tires
- Drill holes in the bottom and elevate recycling containers that are left outdoors
- Clean up any trash or leaves that may be around your home or in rain gutters at least once a year
- Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. Mosquitoes can even breed in the water that collects on pool covers
- Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property
This summer, the Department of Health launched its Fight the Bite NJ awareness campaign to continue to promote awareness and provide education throughout the state on how to avoid mosquito-borne illness. Social media and online advertisements encourage residents to take steps to protect against mosquito bites.
Clinicians are asked to consider Eastern Equine Encephalitis in people with compatible symptoms and contact their local health department to ask about testing for the virus. Laboratory testing for Eastern Equine Encephalitis is only available at the State Public Health and Environmental
Clinicians are required to report human Eastern Equine Encephalitis cases and other arboviruses to the local health department where the person resides within 24 hours of diagnosis (www.localhealth.nj.gov). The local health department can assist clinicians with EEE testing at the New Jersey Public Health and Environmental Laboratories.
Residents who need assistance controlling mosquitoes around their home can call their county mosquito control agency or 888-666-5968.