By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

The New Jersey Departments of Health (NJDOH), Environmental Protection (NJDEP), and Agriculture (NJDA) are urging state residents to take precautions this summer to protect themselves from all mosquito-borne diseases including Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a rare virus transmitted to people and horses by the bite of an infected mosquito.

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The DOH has confirmed the first human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis this summer in an elderly Somerset County man earlier this month. The man was hospitalized but has been discharged for continued rehabilitation care.

To date, Eastern Equine Encephalitis has been detected in 22 mosquito samples and in three horses in the southern and eastern parts of the state.

Most persons infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis have no apparent illness, however some can be very ill. Severe cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting 4 to 10 days after a mosquito bite. The illness may then progress to disorientation, seizures, or coma.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the U.S. About one-third of people with Eastern Equine Encephalitis die from the disease and there is significant brain damage in most survivors. While there is a vaccine for horses, there is no vaccine for people.

Clinicians are asked to consider Eastern Equine Encephalitis in people with compatible symptoms and contact their local health department to ask about testing for the virus. Laboratory testing for Eastern Equine Encephalitis is only available at the State Public Health and Environmental Laboratories.

“Thankfully, human infections with Eastern Equine Encephalitis are rare, but we are concerned when we start seeing a lot of activity in mosquitoes and horses since this is a warning sign of risk for human infection,”  said Acting Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Anyone who is concerned they may have Eastern Equine Encephalitis should contact their health care provider right away.”

Reducing exposure to mosquitoes is the best defense against infection with Eastern Equine Encephalitis and other mosquito-borne viruses. There are several steps you and your family can take to prevent and control mosquito-borne diseases.

Prevent Mosquito bites:

  • Use repellent: When outdoors, use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and/or clothing. The repellent/insecticide permethrin can be used on clothing to protect through several washes. Always follow package directions. Insect repellent should not be used on children less than 2 months old and oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children less than 3 years
  • Wear protective clothing: Wear long sleeves/pants when weather permits
  • Install and repair screens: Have secure, intact screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out and use air conditioning if you have it