Public health officials in are warning about another potentially bad summer for EEE and other insect-borne illnesses.
EEE saw an unexpected resurgence last summer across 10 states: Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Tennessee.
There were 38 human cases and 15 deaths from the virus, with many of the cases in Massachusetts and Michigan, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most years, the country sees just half a dozen cases of the virus in humans, the agency said.
A relatively mild winter may have benefited mosquito populations, but below-average rainfall could have also provided a welcome counterweight, he said.
Local health officials are also warning about the risk of contracting other insect-borne illnesses as more people are spending a longer time outdoors amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In Michigan, an invasive mosquito known to transmit dengue, Zika and other tropical viruses has already been detected for the first time this season, said Mary Grace Stobierski, the state’s public health veterinarian.
The state also had its first case of West Nile virus this season. A more common but less severe mosquito-borne disease than EEE, it can cause fevers, headaches, body pain and other symptoms. The infection was found in a captive hawk in early June.
Ticks are also expected to be out earlier and in larger numbers this season because of the relatively mild winter, warned Aaron Bernstein, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and a director at Harvard’s School of Public Health.
That could mean more cases of debilitating Lyme disease and other tick-related illnesses for local health care systems already feeling the pressure of responding to the coronavirus, he said.
In Michigan, where six of that state’s 10 cases of EEE last year proved fatal, officials this summer have launched a pilot program to improve the state’s response to mosquito-borne illnesses.
Ned Walker, a medical entomologist at Michigan State University heading up the effort, said the goal is to create the kind of regular mosquito surveillance system already in place in Massachusetts and elsewhere to better predict and prepare for disease outbreaks.
–By PHILIP MARCELO Associated Press