Florida Warns of Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus Risk

Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus has 30 percent fatality risk
horse and carriage in st augustine florida
(Precision Vaccinations)

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County (DOH-Orange) advised residents there has been an increase in mosquito-borne disease activity in the greater Orlando area.

This advisory published on July 25, 2019, is related to several sentinel chickens in the same flock which have tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) infection.

In 2019, 25 horses, one emu, one eagle, and 83 sentinel chickens have been reported with an EEEV infection from 27 Florida counties, as of July 27, 2019. 

And the risk of EEEV transmission to humans has increased.

This is important news since approximately 30 percent of people with EEEV die and many survivors have ongoing neurologic problems, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In the United States, an average of 7 human cases of EEEV are reported annually by the CDC. During 2018, there were 6 human cases confirmed.

Most cases of EEEV have been reported from Florida and is most common in and around freshwater hardwood swamps.

Since there is not a preventive vaccine for humans available, the CDC says the most effective way to prevent infection from ­­­Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus is to prevent mosquito bites.

The DOH-Orange reminds Florida residents and visitors to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and to take basic precautions to help limit exposure. 

To protect yourself from mosquitoes, you should remember to “Drain and Cover”.

DRAIN standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying

  • Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rainwater has collected.
  • Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren't being used.
  • Empty and clean birdbaths and pet's water bowls at least once or twice a week.
  • Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
  • Maintain swimming pools in good condition and appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use. 

COVER skin with clothing or repellent

  • Clothing - Wear shoes, socks, and long pants and long-sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present.
  • Repellent - Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing. Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, and IR3535 are effective. Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old. 

TIPS on Repellent Use

  • Always read label directions carefully for the approved usage before you apply a repellent. Some repellents are not suitable for children.
  • Products with concentrations of up to 30 percent DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) are generally recommended. Other U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved repellents contain picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or IR3535. These products are generally available at local pharmacies. Look for active ingredients to be listed on the product label.
  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin, or onto clothing, but not under clothing.
  • In protecting children, read label instructions to be sure the repellent is age-appropriate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of three years. DEET is not recommended for children younger than two months old.
  • Avoid applying repellents to the hands of children. Adults should apply repellent first to their own hands and then transfer it to the child’s skin and clothing.
  • If additional protection is necessary, apply a permethrin repellent directly to your clothing. Again, always follow the manufacturer’s directions. 

COVER doors and windows with screens 

  • Repair broken screening on windows, doors, porches, and patios to keep mosquitoes outside

For more information on what repellent is right for you, consider using the Environmental Protection Agency’s search tool to help you choose skin-applied repellent products.

The Florida Health Department continues to conduct statewide surveillance for mosquito-borne illnesses, including West Nile virus infections, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, malaria, chikungunya, and dengue.