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EEE is a rare disease caused by a virus that is spread by infected mosquitoes. EEE virus is one of a group of mosquito-transmitted viruses that can cause inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). In the United States, approximately 5-10 EEE cases are reported annually. Unfortunately, multiple human and animal cases have been reported in Michigan this year. Even with the unexpected number of cases in Michigan this year, EEE infection is considered rare.
Symptoms usually occur within 4-10 days after the infected mosquito bite. Symptoms can be severe, including sudden onset of high fever, headache, and stiff neck. EEE can cause swelling of the brain, leading to seizures, coma, or death.
The mosquitoes that can carry the EEE virus are most often found in and around hardwood forests or freshwater swamps and bogs, usually at night between dusk and dawn. Not all mosquitoes can carry the EEE virus, and only about 4-5% of human infections result in EEE illness. Individuals who are over the age of 50, under the age of 15, or have compromised immune systems due to underlying medical conditions or treatments are at elevated risk for contracting the virus.
The best way to avoid EEE is to prevent mosquito bites.