Suffolk County is asking New York State to "confirm a declaration of an Imminent Threat to Public Health" after a local mosquito sample tested positive for a rare and possibly deadly virus, county health officials said Thursday.
State health officials told their counterparts in Suffolk on Thursday that the July 31 sample taken from "the Manorville area" contained Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a virus that can cause fatal brain swelling in humans if bitten by mosquitoes carrying it, according to a county news release.
EEE is a rare cause of brain infections (encephalitis). Only a few cases are reported in the United States each year. Most occur in eastern or Gulf Coast states. Approximately 30% of people with EEE die and many survivors have ongoing neurologic problems.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus tends to occur in outbreak form. First identified in mosquitoes in Louisiana in 1951, the disease is transmitted to horses by mosquitoes that have fed on infected wild birds.
The normal geographical distribution of EEE cases in horses occurs east of the Mississippi River, typically including the coastal states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina and South Carolina, although cases have occurred in the midwestern states of Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.
At least one case of EEE has occurred in a horse in California, but the origin of the case was not established.
EEE virus attacks the central nervous system and unvaccinated horses are very susceptible to the infection. The disease appears within five days after a mosquito transmits the virus to the horse. Onset of clinical symptoms are abrupt and infected horses often die within three days.
The fatality rate is 90% or higher in horses and an animal that survives the disease may have brain damage. There is no specific treatment for EEE. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, and no effective anti-viral drugs have been developed.
Suffolk county is seeking the imminent threat declaration so that it can ramp up mosquito control measures.
The illness is uncommon in humans, with only seven cases a year reported on average in the United States, and no human cases on record in Suffolk County, the release said.
Press release by EDCC