WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Health Friday afternoon announced the state’s first human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) since 2010.
Health officials said a person over the age of 50 from West Warwick contracted the mosquito-borne disease.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which performs the EEE testing, notified health officials Friday of the positive result.
The news comes a day after the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management announced a horse in Westerly tested positive for the disease, and less than a week after a Fairhaven woman died after contracting EEE.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, the last time a Rhode Islander died from EEE was in 2007.
“In Rhode Island, we have confirmed EEE in both a horse and a human, which indicates that there is a high risk for transmission of disease to humans through mosquito bites,” said Ana Novais, Deputy Director of RIDOH. “EEE is a rare, but very serious disease. We strongly recommend that people everywhere in Rhode Island protect themselves and their families by using insect repellent, minimizing outdoor exposure at dusk and dawn, and wearing long sleeves and pants when outdoors at those times. People must also reduce opportunities for mosquitoes to breed by eliminating standing water around their homes.”
In a press conference Friday evening, Andrea Bagnall Degos said those who contract EEE all respond differently to the virus.
In fact 30% of people who contract the virus will die, that is according to Andrea Bagnall Degos.
Additionally, those who contract the virus may not develop any symptoms.
The Rhode Island Health Department said the DEM is adding traps to capture and test more mosquitoes statewide. The agency said the state is preparing to conduct aerial spraying.
An area DEM is considering is the Chapman Swamp in Westerly.
The last time aerial spraying was conducted was in 1996 over the town of Westerly. With the last ground spraying took place in Portsmouth in 2012.
The DEM did consider closing state campgrounds for the holiday weekend, but decided against doing that. Instead, they emailed guests of those campgrounds regarding the risk of EEE.
The DEM also sent that message to the privately-owned campgrounds across Rhode Island. All health providers were issued a similar email from the Rhode Island Department of Health of the risk of EEE.
Health officials are asking everyone to limit their time outside to between dusk and dawn, wear plenty of bug spray that has DEET and cover up any exposed skin.
Mike Healey with DEM said cities and towns need to be proactive when it comes to canceling or rescheduling events.