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EEE virus detected in Rhode Island

Abigail Nilsson, News Editor

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) stated in a press release that a West Warwick man over the age of 50 has been infected with EEE (eastern equine encephalitis virus). The Center for Disease Control says EEE “is a rare cause of brain infections (encephalitis). Only a few cases are reported in the United States each year. Most occur in eastern or Gulf Coast states. Approximately 30% of people with EEE die and many survivors have ongoing neurologic problems.”

In a press release from the RIDOH, Deputy Director Ana Novais stated that “EEE is a rare, but very serious disease. We strongly recommend that people everywhere in Rhode Island to protect themselves and their families by using insect repellent, minimizing outdoor exposure at dusk and dawn, and wearing long sleeves and pants when outdoors at those times. People must also reduce opportunities for mosquitoes to breed by eliminating standing water around their homes.” The RIDOH suggests protecting yourself by wearing long sleeves and pants, using bug spray specifically with DEET. 

The CDC noted that symptoms of the disease can present themselves differently relative to a person’s age. There are two different ways that the illness can present systemically, meaning it can affect every organ in the body, or encephalitic, causing swelling in the brain. Systemically it can cause fever, discomfort, chills, joint and muscle pain that can last up to two weeks. Encephalitic symptoms can start off similar to the systemic symptoms and include headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, cyanosis (having a blue or purple coloring of the skin), convulsions and coma, which can result in death.

The state of Rhode Island will conduct mosquito spraying in the near future, but what will Rhode Island College be doing to protect students from EEE? Following the press release from the RIDOH on Friday, RIC Student Activities held an outdoor movie night outside on the Student Union patio. RIC did send out a press release informing students and faculty about EEE on Friday afternoon before the first human case was reported by RIDOH.

The RIDOH suggests that schools and community leaders participate in the “smart scheduling” of activities. This means having early morning or events scheduled for dusk to take place during the early afternoon or indoors where there is a decreased risk of mosquito bites.

    Visit the Rhode Island Department of Health  http://www.health.ri.gov/mosquito for additional mosquito prevention tips.