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Saturday, August 16, 2014

EEE shows up in NH, but no sign of West Nile virus so far

Even as New Hampshire remains surprisingly free of West Nile virus, the summer’s first case of Eastern equine encephalitis virus, or EEE, has been found in the state.

EEE was found in a batch of mosquitoes in Londonderry, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said Friday. ...

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Even as New Hampshire remains surprisingly free of West Nile virus, the summer’s first case of Eastern equine encephalitis virus, or EEE, has been found in the state.

EEE was found in a batch of mosquitoes in Londonderry, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said Friday.

The discovery isn’t surprising, since EEE often shows up in August as part of its life cycle and the life cycle of the mosquitoes that carry it (the first positive test results last year were on Aug. 12). It is most prevalent in the southeast corner of the state.

“This is approximately the same time we identified the first positive for Eastern equine encephalitis as last year,” Public Health Director Dr. Jose Montero said in a prepared statement. “Since we know that the agents that cause these diseases are here in New England, everyone should make it part of their routine to take precautions every time they go outside.”

The state has collected batches of mosquitoes and tested them for so-called arboviruses for more than a decade, ever since West Nile virus made its surprising arrival here in 2000 after coming to the U.S. from Africa two years earlier, probably from an infected mosquito aboard a cargo ship.

West Nile peaked here in 2002, and then almost disappeared from the state. Similar patterns were seen around the country.

In 2012, however, for reasons that remain unclear, the virus returned in force, particularly in the Midwest and South.

In 2012, the state found West Nile in 41 batches of mosquitoes – more than in any year since 2007 – and one person came down with the disease. Last year, however, cases of West Nile dipped to 14, and the lack of any so far this year seems to show that the virus may be disappearing from New Hampshire again, although nobody can be certain.

EEE, on the other hand, has been in New England for centuries, and has always waxed and waned, probably in reaction to changes in susceptibility of horses and other mammals that carry it.

Its frequency often changes sharply over time: For example, the state found 73 cases of EEE-positive mosquitos in 2009, but none the following year. Last year, there were 24 cases in New Hampshire, part of a general increase over the last three seasons.

Both diseases cause symptoms similar to the flu, but can be dangerous – particularly EEE, which has been related to some human deaths in recent years.

Health officials caution that the best defense against either of these viruses is to take precautions against mosquito bites, including wearing an effective repellent, long pants and sleeves, ensuring windows screens are in good repair and removing standing water from your property to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

Symptoms of West Nile disease often appear four to 10 days after being bitten. They include flu-like symptoms, such as fever and headache.

EEE symptoms may include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck and sore throat. There is no treatment for the disease, which can lead to seizures and coma.

Symptoms usually occur four to 10 days after being bitten.

For more information about EEE and West Nile virus, visit www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/arboviral/index.htm or call the Health and Human Services Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at 271-4496.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).