State health officials warn public about presence of rare virus transmitted by mosquito bites

Eastern equine encephalitis claims second victim in Massachusetts
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MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is urging the public to be wary of mosquitoes due to the confirmed presence of eastern equine encephalitis in Wisconsin.

Health officials have confirmed that six horses in Northwestern Wisconsin have tested positive for EEE, which is spread to humans, horses and other animals through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes contract the EEE virus by feeding on infected birds.

As of Thursday, DHS has not confirmed any human cases in the state. Health officials said the disease is very rare in Wisconsin. Only three cases have been reported in the state since 1964.

While the virus is can not be spread from person to person or directly between animals and humans, it can be transmitted by mosquito bites.

DHS officials said many people who get infected do not get sick, but those who do are at risk of developing encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain. Those who get sick typically experience a sudden fever, headache, chills and vomiting. More severe cases can cause disorientation, seizures, coma or death.

Roughly 30% of people who develop encephalitis from EEE die from their infections.

Health officials recommend limiting time outside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are active, using insect repellent, removing stagnant water wherever possible.