Source of triple-E advisory was infected mosquito caught in Lebanon trap

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Eastern equine encephalitis virus neuroinvasive disease cases reported by state of residence, 2009-2018. (U.S. CDC graphic)

AUGUSTA, Maine - A field epidemiologist with the Maine Center for Disease Control on Thursday said the Eastern Equine Encephalitis advisory issued on Thursday was the result of a mosquito obtained from a Lebanon trap being found infected with the virus.

The center routinely installs traps in various regions around the state during the summer and fall months, Field Epidemiologist Kate Colby told The Rochester Voice Thursday afternoon. She said the center does not identify the exact location of the traps because they don't want areas of town distant from the trap site to believe they are less at risk.

Most persons infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or triple-E, suffer no symptoms, but severe cases involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. In these more severe cases, the disease is fatal about a third of the time.

State health officials urged residents to take precautions to minimize the risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito, including wearing protective clothing and using insect repellent that includes DEET.

Colby also said it would be prudent for all town surrounding Lebanon, including Rochester, N.H., to take special note of the advisory, since it is likely mosquitoes in their area could also be infected.

Colby also said that while cooler temperatures can slow down mosquito activity, they remain a threat until much colder weather is upon us.

Rochester Assistant Fire Chief Tim Wilder echoed those concerns on Thursday, urging Rochester residents to take extra precautions when venturing outside, and follow all safety measures as prescribed by the CDC.

In late August the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a horse in York County was euthanized after it tested positive for the disease.

As in the location of the Lebanon trap, Colby said the town where the infected horse was put down will not be disclosed as safety officials want no one to minimize the risk.

Multiple credible sources have told The Rochester Voice, however, the horse had been stabled in Lebanon.

The horse had not been vaccinated against the disease, the agency said. It was the first detected case of EEE in a horse in Maine since 2013.

According to the national Center for Disease Control, the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. It is rare in humans, and only a few cases are reported in the United States each year. Most cases occur in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states.

The most acute form of the disease only presents symptoms in about four to five percent of infections, according to the CDC.

In September 2012 the death of 30 pheasants in Lebanon was attributed to triple-E.

The same year a Vermont man died from triple-E, and there were also several human infections in Massachusetts, but none proved fatal.

A vaccine for EEE and West Nile virus is available for horses, according to health officials, who note that horses who have not been vaccinated in the last six months should get an initial shot or a booster. The disease can also attack specialty livestock, like llamas, alpacas, emus, ostriches and other farm-raised birds, such as pheasants, quail and ducks.

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