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Physicians Urged to Watch for Eastern Equine Encephalitis

Disease surfaced in New Hampshire and Massachusetts last year, causing four deaths

THURSDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Physicians should be alert to the threat of mosquito-borne eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV), even in unexpected places, after New Hampshire's first cases in 41 years surfaced last year, according to a report in the June 30 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Jose Montero, M.D., of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, and colleagues report that seven New Hampshire residents developed human EEEV last year, as did four Massachusetts residents.

The viral disease has a 35 percent to 75 percent fatality rate and potentially devastating long-term neurological consequences, authorities report. Four of the 11 patients died; all frequented areas near mosquito-infested wetlands. Three reported never using mosquito repellant.

In New Hampshire, 15 of 3,938 mosquito pools tested positive for the virus, as did 52 of 241 wild birds and 16 of 33 tested veterinary animals. In Massachusetts, 45 of 8,136 mosquito pools tested positive.

"Patients with aseptic meningitis or encephalitis in areas that support EEEV transmission should be tested for EEEV disease, and health care providers should alert their state health departments when human or veterinary EEEV disease is suspected," the authors write.

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