Health Dept: Human case of EEE confirmed in RI

WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Health Friday afternoon announced the state’s first human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) since 2010.

Health officials said a person over the age of 50 from West Warwick contracted the mosquito-borne disease.

FACT SHEET: Signs & Symptoms of Mosquito-Borne Disease »

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which performs the EEE testing, notified RIDOH today of the positive result.

The news comes a day after the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management announced a horse in Westerly tested positive for the disease, and less than a week after a Fairhaven woman died after contracting EEE.

According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, the last time a Rhode Islander died from EEE was in 2007.

“In Rhode Island, we have confirmed EEE in both a horse and a human, which indicates that there is a high risk for transmission of disease to humans through mosquito bites,” said Ana Novais, Deputy Director of RIDOH. “EEE is a rare, but very serious disease.  We strongly recommend that people everywhere in Rhode Island protect themselves and their families by using insect repellent, minimizing outdoor exposure at dusk and dawn, and wearing long sleeves and pants when outdoors at those times.  People must also reduce opportunities for mosquitoes to breed by eliminating standing water around their homes.”

In a press conference Friday evening Andrea Bagnall Degos told reporters those who contract EEE all respond differently to the virus.

In fact 30% of people who contract the virus will die, that is according to Andrea Bagnall Degos.

Additionally, those who contract the virus may not develop any symptoms.

The Health Department said the DEM is adding traps to capture and test more mosquitoes statewide. The agency said the state is preparing to conduct aerial spraying.

An area DEM is considering is the Chapman Swamp in Westerly.

The last time ariel spraying was conducted was in 1996 over the town of Westerly. With the last ground spraying in Portsmouth in 2012.

DEM did consider closing state campground for the holiday weekend but decided against doing that.

Instead, they emailed guest of those campgrounds regarding the risk of EEE.

Additionally, DEM sent that message to the privately own campgrounds across Rhode Island.

All health providers were issued a similar email from the Rhode Island Department of Health of the risk of EEE.

DEM and DOH spokespeople ask you to limit your time outside between dusk and dawn, wear plenty of bug spray that has DEET, and cover up exposed skin.

Mike Healey with DEM says towns need to be proactive when it comes to canceling or rescheduling events.

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