Eastern Equine Encephalitis

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a viral infection of the brain, spinal cord or the meningeal lining of the central nervous system caused by a member of the alpha virus called Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus. Its presentation can range from no symptoms, to mild headache to severe cases - involving confusion, seizures, coma and death.

Where does it occur?

It occurs along the eastern coast of USA, southern Canada, as well as northeastern regions of South America and the Caribbean.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is not contagious from person to person.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is generally low for travelers.

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

One generally develops symptoms 1-2 weeks after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Most individuals infected by the virus have no symptoms. Mild cases have symptoms of fever, headache, body aches, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms can progress to severe headache, stiffness of the neck, confusion, disorientation, seizures, coma and paralysis.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Antibody tests against the virus can be performed on blood or spinal fluid. Rarely, the virus can be cultured from blood or spinal fluid.

Is there any treatment?

No specific anti-viral medications are available; treatment is entirely supportive with fluids, pain medications and rest.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Avoid insect bite by following insect safety measures. Those at high risk of exposure, like research lab workers, can be provided with vaccines from the US Army Medical Research Command.

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