Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced today that a mature adult (age 65 or above) from York County who died on October 17 was confirmed to have Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). This marks the first death ever from EEE in Maine.

Image/ National Atlas of the United States
Image/ National Atlas of the United States

This individual became ill with encephalitis in late September and was hospitalized in New Hampshire on September 30. Preliminary testing in early October by New Hampshire’s public health laboratory was inconclusive and the sample was sent to the federal CDC in Fort Collins, Colorado for confirmation. Maine CDC received the positive results late last week.

“Our hearts go out to the family during this difficult time,’’ said State Epidemiologist Siiri Bennett “As this disease is transmitted through a bite from an infected mosquito it’s important for Mainers to know that there is no current risk of EEE in Maine as there are no active mosquitos.”

EEE infection is a rare but serious viral infection that is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The virus can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. Initial symptoms, which usually start 4-10 days after the bite, can include fever, headache, and vomiting. Illness can then progress to altered mental status, confusion, seizures, coma, and even death (One in every three individuals who are infected die). The greatest risk for infection with this virus is for people, especially the very young and elderly, who spend a lot of time outdoors.

There is no commercially available human vaccine against EEE, so the best way to protect yourself is to keep mosquitoes from biting you through eliminating mosquito breeding sites on your property and the use of repellents (that contain DEET, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus) on your skin.