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Watch out — Florida mosquitoes are carrying a rare brain-swelling viral infection. Here's how to prevent it

The nickel-sized blood suckers are coming out in full force after floodwaters caused their eggs to hatch.
The nickel-sized blood suckers are coming out in full force after floodwaters caused their eggs to hatch.

SALT LAKE CITY — If you’re vacationing in Florida this summer, make sure to use mosquito repellent — state health officials warn a dangerous mosquito-borne disease could cause serious brain damage.

Gizmodo reports that the Florida Department of Health in Orange County issued a public advisory on July 25 that mosquitos were found carrying Eastern equine encephalitis virus, which can cause lethal brain damage. According to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is rare but can cause 30 percent of victims to die and leaves survivors with neurologic problems.

The CDC reports that EEEV is commonly contracted around Atlantic freshwater hardwood swamps and in the Great Lakes region. It’s also worth noting the number of victims in the last five years is relatively small — only six cases were reported in 2018, while eight in 2014 marks the most victims since 2012 when 15 people contracted EEE.

What does the virus do?

  • Gizmodo also reports EEEV causes serious brain swelling or encephalitis.
  • According to Fox News, the untreatable infection can lead to headaches, fever and vomiting within four to 10 days before progressing to seizures and coma.

How is it treated?

According to the New York State Department of Health, there is no specific treatment for the disease. Instead, support treatment involves hospitalization, respiratory support, IVs and treatment for other infections.

The CDC notes that antibiotics are ineffective against viruses and anti-viral drugs for the infection haven’t been discovered yet.

How can EEEV be prevented?

  • The CDC recommends using EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone.
  • You should also take steps to limit exposure to mosquitoes both indoors and outdoors. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants treated with permethrin insecticide.
  • Lodging windows and doors should have screens and air conditioning and items sitting in standing water should be cleaned on a weekly basis to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.