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Brain-swelling virus found in Florida mosquitoes

Published Jul 29th, 2019 12:50PM EDT
mosquito virus
Image: Larry West/Flpa/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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Mosquitoes are a summertime pest that most of us have just learned to deal with. You can treat your lawn and use bug spray, but they’re still going to find a way to annoy you. In some cases, bites from the tiny bugs can lead to more serious consequences than a small itchy bump, and health officials in Florida are warning that a particularly nasty virus has been found in animals in Orange County.

The insects have been found to carry a virus known as Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE for short. It’s a remarkably deadly infection that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is fatal in roughly one-third of cases.

As the name suggests, EEE is often seen in horses, but it can also be transferred to humans. A typical year sees one or two cases of human infection of EEE in Florida, but officials are doing their best to be proactive.

This time around, the EEE virus was discovered in multiple chickens in one location, which is a sign that mosquitos are now carrying the virus. According to Orange County health officials, the risk of human transmission has now increased greatly.

To mitigate your risk of contracting the virus, experts advise you to avoid contact with mosquitoes at all costs. This means wearing long sleeves and pants, and using a proven bug repellent.

Reducing or eliminating the ability of mosquitoes to breed on your property is also a big step. Because mosquitoes deposit their eggs in water, dumping out any standing water and covering containers that could accumulate rain water should be a top priority. For swimming pools, ensuring adequate chlorination will prevent the insects from reproducing inside.

If you live in Florida and believe you might have been bitten by an infected mosquito, a trip to the doctor is in order. Symptoms of EEE include high fever, cramps, headache, sensitivity to light, and even seizures. If you’re experiencing any of this, it’s better to be safe than sorry and get checked out right away.