EEE has impacted humans and livestock more than usual in 2019.
A West Warwick resident died from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a disease transmitted by mosquitoes that can cause ongoing neurologic problems, on Sept. 9, according to the Providence Journal.
This was the first reported death caused by EEE in Rhode Island since 2007 according to The Rhode Island Department of Health.
According to The Center for Disease Control, EEE is “very rare” in the United States, with only six reported cases throughout the country in 2018. Approximately one-third of those that contract EEE die as a result, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health.
According to Dr. Christopher Nasin, medical director at URI’s Health Services, symptoms of EEE include fever, headaches, neck stiffness, joint stiffness and muscle pain.
The Director of Health Services, Ellen Reynolds, said the last reported case of EEE in Rhode Island was in 2010, though the person who contracted the disease did not die as a result. She said that there have been no patients of concern at the Health Services. The department sent out an email concerning the prevention of the illness before move-in weekend this year.
The state of Rhode Island monitors every year to see if any mosquitoes carry EEE, according to Nasin. He said that every year it is “expected” to find EEE in mosquitoes in Rhode Island, so there is no need to panic.
“[People] should be educated and they should take preventative measures, but this is not an aberration,” Nasin said.
Bug spray with diethyltoluamide (DEET) is recommended by Health Services to repel mosquitos. Reynolds said that they will provide bug spray containing DEET for anyone interested. Students were also advised to wear longer clothing and use screens in their homes to prevent mosquito bites. Wearing higher socks was a preventative measure particularly stressed by Nasin, as ankles are a spot where people usually get bitten.
For anyone who is allergic to DEET, alternative repellents for mosquito bites are bug sprays that include oil of lemon, eucalyptus, picaridin, IR3535, para-menthane-diol (PMD) or z-undecanone.
Health Services is unable to conduct the test for EEE, so patients within a high index of suspicion would be sent to an emergency room. The test for the disease taken at the hospital is then sent to the state for testing.
Reynolds said early detection is important in order to make treatment more successful.
Athletic teams at URI have been advised to wear longer clothing as well. Nasin said that visiting sports teams were also notified, through communication with sports medicine, about the presence of EEE in the area.
Nasin explained that with colder weather coming, mosquito bites should decrease.
“What we’re really hoping for is a hard freeze,” Nasin said.
The catch basins surrounding URI have been treated with a “larvicide” for mosquito breeding, according to Reynolds. Areas with stagnant water is where mosquito breeding is more popular, so being in these areas is not advised.
Reynolds said that Health Services is trying to make sure that people use good prevention practices.
In regards to concerns about contracting the disease, Nasin said students should, “be smart, not scared.”
Students may call URI Health Services at 401-874-2246 with any concerns about EEE between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday to speak with a health official.