DOVER – Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a potentially serious illness, has been detected in sentinel chickens monitored for mosquito-transmitted diseases in Delaware, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced Friday.
EEE is a rare, potentially fatal viral disease spread by mosquitoes that can affect both people and horses. It is considered one of the more serious mosquito-transmitted illnesses.
The Division of Public Health informed DNREC four chickens recently tested positive for EEE from three sentinel chicken stations in southwestern New Castle County, east-central Kent County and southeastern Sussex County. In response, DNREC plans to increase mosquito surveillance where EEE detections have occurred and take mosquito control actions like aerial spraying and fogging with a spray truck.
Because anyone in an area where the virus is present can be infected with EEE, DNREC encourages people to avoid mosquito bites and lessen their chances of contracting a mosquito-transmitted disease by using insect repellent containing DEET or another EPA-recognized ingredient when outdoors, covering up exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants and avoiding areas where mosquitoes are common.
While not as common as the better-known West Nile Virus, EEE has a higher fatality risk. No sentinel chickens or wild birds have tested positive for West Nile Virus so far this year, and no human or equine cases of EEE or West Nile Virus have been reported to date this year in Delaware.
Many people infected with EEE have no apparent signs of illness, according to DPH. Symptoms of EEE often appear four to 10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, with severe cases involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, that begins with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures or a coma.
Approximately one-third of EEE cases in people lead to death. Those over age 50 and under age 15 appear to be at greatest risk for developing severe disease when infected with EEE.
There is no specific treatment for EEE, with care based on symptoms. Anyone who believes he or she or a family member has contracted EEE should contact a health care provider immediately.