A comatose Scottish man is being called the first suspected European victim of a deadly mosquito-borne virus called Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
Also known as EEE or Triple E, the little known virus is transmitted by mosquitoes in the eastern regions of the United States.
It’s believed the 35 year-old man was infected while on holiday in New Hampshire this past summer. He became ill on August 31, the day after returning to Scotland, and soon after slipped into a coma. Within two weeks his doctors diagnosed his condition as Eastern Equine Encephalitis, the first recorded case in Europe.
Triple E affects horses, humans, and some bird species, and is considered one of the most deadly mosquito-borne viruses on the North American continent. Many infected people don’t show any illness but those who do can begin to present symptoms 3 to 10 days after infection. These can include mild flu-like illness, brain inflammation, coma, and death. The disease has a 35% mortality rate, but half of those who do survive the virus can suffer mild to severe permanent neurological damage.
There have been approximately 220 confirmed cases of Triple E in the United States between 1964 and 2004, an average of five per year.
Transmission of the disease is most common in and around freshwater hardwood swamps in Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, and regions around the Great Lakes. Humans who engage in outdoor activities in those areas should protect themselves against mosquito bites by wearing protective clothing, using insect repellent, avoiding being outdoors during times when mosquitoes are most active, and by eliminating mosquito breeding grounds such as standing water.
The infected man remains unconscious and unresponsive in the neurology unit of an Edinburgh hospital. His family only hopes the public can become aware of this deadly and little publicized disease so others can avoid his fate.
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