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Monday
Jul212014

Disease-Carrying Mosquitoes Are Biting into Summer Fun

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You’ve probably heard of the West Nile virus -- a rare but deadly infection transmitted by mosquitoes. But what about chikungunya and eastern equine encephalitis?

All three mosquito-borne diseases are here in the U.S., and depending on where you live, you might be at risk.

Read on to learn more about the viruses and find out whether mosquitoes in your state are carrying them:

West Nile Virus

What It Looks Like

Most people who contract the virus show no symptoms at all, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But one in five people infected will develop a fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash, and one in 100 will experience brain swelling or meningitis, which can be deadly. Symptoms can take up to two weeks to appear and last “for weeks or months,” according to the CDC.

Where It Is

Fourteen states have reported West Nile infections so far this year -- Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. Another 13 have mosquitoes, birds and other animals carrying the virus, including Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming.

Chikungunya Virus

What It Looks Like

Most people who contract the virus develop symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle and joint pain or a rash within a week of the offending mosquito bite, according to the CDC. They usually feel better in a week, but joint pain can persist for months, the agency said, adding that the infection is rarely fatal but sometimes disabling.

Where It Is

Thirty states plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have reported chikungunya infections so far this year, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. However, only two cases in the continental U.S. -- both in Florida -- were acquired locally. The rest were acquired outside the country, according to the CDC.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus

What It Looks Like

The virus, dubbed EEE, causes fever, chills and body aches within a week after the offending mosquito bite. Some people recover after two weeks, while others go on to develop an encephalitic form of the disease, which can cause headache, irritability, convulsions and even coma, according to the CDC. Roughly a third of those infected die, the agency said, and many who survive are left with brain damage, personality disorders, seizures and paralysis.

Where It Is

Mosquitoes carrying EEE were recently detected in Massachusetts, according to the state’s Department of Health. No human cases have been reported in 2014, but six Massachusetts residents died from the infection between 2004 and 2006, according to state data.

In the last 50 years, EEE infections have also been reported in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to the CDC.

How to Protect Yourself


Since there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments for West Nile, chikungunya or EEE, the CDC recommends the following tips to prevent infections:

  • Use insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin or IR3535. Some oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol products also provide protection.
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors and avoid outdoor activities between dusk and dawn -- peak mosquito biting hours.
  • Mosquito-proof your home with screens and regularly remove standing water from birdbaths, gutters, pool covers and pet water dishes.


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