People travelling to parts of America’s east coast are being asked to be mindful of a mosquito-borne illness called eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE.
The rare and fatal virus resurfaced last week in Massachusetts and Rhode Island states and claimed the lives of three Americans. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Approximately 30% of people with EEE die, and many survivors have ongoing neurologic problems.”
MRCU Director James McNelly said he is keeping an eye on the virus, and Cayman’s residents have nothing to worry about.
“The virus is a two-stage process,” said McNelly. “It begins with a mosquito that feeds exclusively on nesting bird colonies in the US. Once the virus reaches a critical limit, it eventually spills out, as other mosquitoes feed on the infected birds and then transfer it to either a horse or a human.”
McNelly said it is highly unlikely that the virus will ever be found in Cayman. This is because the Culiseta Melanura mosquito, the primary vector for the virus, only breeds in red cedar swamps east of the Mississippi River. Even if someone contracts the disease and returns to Cayman, they would not be able to pass it onto someone else.
“Humans and horses are dead-end hosts,” McNelly said.
While people in Cayman might not have to worry, US-bound residents looking to visit areas with the infected virus are asked to wear long-sleeved clothing. Other precautionary measures include wearing long trousers, avoiding stagnant water when possible, and using insect repellant which contains DEET.