A Mobile resident has tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), lab reports confirm. The 66-year-old male patient remained hospitalized in Mobile, according to health officials Friday.

Eastern equine encephalitis virus /CDC
Eastern equine encephalitis virus /CDC

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States with a mortality rate of approximately 33 percent, said Dr. Bernard Eichold, Health Officer of Mobile County. “It’s a very serious illness that can leave significant brain damage in survivors.”

Eastern Equine Encephalitis and other mosquito-borne viruses such as West Nile Virus are transmitted from bird to mosquito to bird. Mosquitoes can spread these viruses by feeding on the blood of infected birds and then biting another host animal or mammal such as a horse or human. Although humans and horses can become ill from the infection, the diseases cannot be spread from people or horses. The likelihood of transmission to humans can be decreased by avoiding mosquitoes. There is no vaccine available for humans, Eichold said.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis can be more dangerous to people and other mammals than other mosquito-borne viruses. However the same mosquito-prevention measures reduce exposures to all such viruses. Bites to children should be watched for secondary infections that need to be treated by a physician.

The Mobile County Health Department’s Vector Control division monitors encephalitis in sentinel poultry flocks placed throughout the county to detect the presence of viruses carried by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are trapped throughout the county and tested for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, and St. Louis Encephalitis. According to Vector Control staff, aggressive surveillance and control activities are ongoing.