Protecting Your Family From Triple E


Multiple people have died from a rare mosquito-borne illness—the Eastern equine encephalitis virus.

Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV), or “Triple E” as it is called, is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Human cases of the virus occur relatively infrequently since the primary transmission cycle takes place near swampy areas where human populations tend to be limited, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One recent death occurred in Rhode Island, but two more in Michigan and Massachusetts succumbed to the virus. In Massachusetts, where a total of seven cases of Triple E have been recorded, schools have canceled evening outdoor activities.

Every year there are some logged cases of the disease; on average it’s about seven cases a year. Last year eight cases were recorded, while the highest number on record is 15 in 2012.

“While this disease is rare, it’s still important to take precaution because the effects are devastating,” said Dr. Joseph Gross, an infectious disease specialist at Beverly Hospital. “This disease can lead to swelling in the brain or, in extreme cases, death.”

Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and fever.

As with most infectious diseases, the young and the old are most at risk. Mosquitoes don’t normally die off until the first frost. So be sure to protect yourself and your children if you’re outside in the evening, when these pests come around. And if you’re hiking in the woods or in an area with standing water make sure you employ mosquito protection.

Here are four ways to protect yourself against mosquitoes:

Insect Repellent

With numerous brands and types of mosquito repellent out there, it’s hard to know what to purchase. There are repellents that use essential oils as an active ingredient, but if you’re in a place with an infestation, the reliable repellents include various amounts of DEET. This chemical has been used as an effective repellent since it was developed for the U.S. military in 1946. Despite its long history of use, concerns about the chemical’s safety still abound. There have been very rare cases of seizures related to DEET and even a few deaths since it was introduced. But overall the level of DEET poisoning is extremely low. Always read the spray’s label for instructions on responsible applications. 

DEET concentration should be at least 25 percent, which protects for an average of five hours but varies depending on conditions. Higher concentrations don’t work better although they may protect for longer. DEET also protects well against ticks, which is an added bonus. However, do not apply insect repellent to infants under two months of age.

Protective Clothing

Your clothing choices will go a long way in preventing bug bites. If you’re hiking in the woods, consider wearing light, long-sleeved shirts, and pants that cover your entire leg. Not only does this prevent mosquito bites, but covering up while outdoors keeps those dreaded ticks away, too. 

Another option for clothing is permethrin, a repellent that can be used to treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents, or pre-treated clothing can be purchased. But it should not be used directly on the skin.

Drain Stagnated Water

This could be a baby pool or bird feeder in your backyard. Mosquitoes thrive and multiply in stagnant water.

Yard Treatments

Lawn treatments can be effective in ridding your yard of mosquitoes. The drawbacks can be price and the active ingredients in the pest control, which may carry some risk for humans and animals. If you decide a lawn treatment is necessary, be sure to use a professional mosquito-abatement company. 

If you start to see symptoms of Triple E, seek medical treatment immediately. And for more information on the disease, speak with your health care provider.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

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