Climate Change Brings New Danger to Travelers in These Parts of the U.S.

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Another reason to loathe mosquitoes.

Before you enjoy the last few weekends of summer in the Northern United States, you should know that several states in the region have reported a spike in cases of one of the most deadly diseases in the United States. The culprit? Mosquitoes in the area carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) from sick animals and passing them on to humans. Now, state officials are warning locals and visitors about a burgeoning outbreak that might be dangerous enough to change your travel plans for.

Although EEE cases aren’t widespread yet, all signs point to this summer being a particularly bad one for this disease. In previous years, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention only registers an average of seven cases in humans per year. So far this month, there have been 12 confirmed cases of EEE and three deaths. Part of the reason for this increase in cases of EEE is because of a warming climate which extends mosquito season and increases their numbers.

What Is Equine Encephalitis?

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is a serious, mosquito-borne disease. It is passed from horses to people via infected mosquitoes that transmit it through a bite. While a bite from an infected mosquito doesn’t feel any different from a normal bite, if you are infected, symptoms can take four to ten days to appear.

Once the symptoms do appear, they’re severe. Most infected people will experience fever, chills, and aches and pains in their body and joints. Then, after a few days, the symptoms pass with no further ill effects. However, for other unlucky sufferers, EEE can lead to severe encephalitis (brain swelling) which results in headaches, tremors, seizures, and paralysis. Almost a third of people who contract EEE, and especially those who contract encephalitis, die from the disease.

Where Is This Mosquito-Borne Disease?

So far, people have contracted EEE in Michigan, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. However, the disease has been spotted in animals, from which mosquitoes pick up the disease before transmitting it to humans, in Connecticut and Florida.

How Do I Protect Myself?

If you can’t avoid traveling to affected areas, avoid heading outdoors during dusk or dawn which are peak mosquito-biting hours. And, whenever you go outside, you’ll want to gear up. Start with insect repellent that contains DEET. Next, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, no matter the weather. Light colors attract fewer mosquitoes than dark ones and, if you can, tuck your pants into your socks to cut off an entry point.

Do I Have to Be Afraid of EEE All Year Long?

It depends on where you live. After the first hard frost of the year in the Northern U.S., you can lower your guard until summer rolls around again. In areas like Florida in the southeastern United States, there is risk of EEE all year in areas where infected animals have been reported. If you’re traveling to one of those areas, it’s best to protect yourself all year round.