The number of fatalities rises further as cases of an untreatable brain-swelling virus continue to quietly appear around eastern areas of the US.
There have been 36 confirmed cases of eastern equine encephalitis – and at least 14 deaths – in the US this year, according to the latest statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In a typical year, the CDC would expect to see just seven cases.
The last victim was Jim Whitright, a farmer from southwestern Michigan, who died on November 16 after falling ill in August, reports local news station WNDU.
Most of the cases have occurred in Massachusetts (12 cases) and Michigan (10), but there have also been odd reports from Connecticut, Indiana, North Carolina, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.
Eastern equine encephalitis, also known as EEE or Triple E, is characterized as a nasty illness that results in potentially deadly brain swelling. As a result, survivors of the disease are often left with permanent brain damage that can lead to severe intellectual impairment, personality disorders, and seizures.
Overall, just 4 to 5 percent of infections actually result in the development of full-blown EEE, although people over the age of 50 and under the age of 15 seem to be at greatest risk. Symptoms typically start with a headache, high fever, chills, and achy muscles. Some fortunate people will only experience these flu-like symptoms. However, the virus kills around one-third of the people it infects and leaves many survivors with ongoing neurological problems.
Worst of all, it’s untreatable. There’s currently no human vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for EEE.
The pathogen responsible for the disease is referred to as EEEV, a New World virus that infects birds, horses, humans, and a handful of other mammals. At least four lineages of the virus exist, with one endemic to North America and the Caribbean and the other three groups primarily occurring in horses in Central and South America.