Health department addresses concerns over EEE

Posted at 12:48 PM, Sep 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-10 18:28:26-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — There is a new headline-making, mosquito-borne virus getting the attention of health officials. The rare virus called Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) or Triple-E has been linked to three deaths in the United States since August, but is this something residents in central Kentucky should be worried about?

The facts of EEE are disturbing. According to the CDC, the mosquito-borne virus causes swelling in the brain, there is no vaccine and it is estimated that 30% of people who contract it will die, but the reality is, the virus is very rare.
"It is not something that's very high on our radar," Kevin Hall of the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department stated.

You are hearing more about EEE this year because there has been an uptick in cases. Typically, according to the CDC, there are only about five to 10 human cases a year in the United States, but already Massachusetts has reported seven confirmed cases. There have also been three reported deaths, one each in Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island.

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department said even with those eye-popping facts, there are other, more relevant concerns for central Kentucky.

"West Nile, Zika... those are your big illnesses to be worried about," Kevin Hall explained.

Despite the odds, the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department is taking EEE seriously, and they say the same safety precautions apply across the board for all three viruses: wear long, loose clothing, use EPA recommended insect repellents and eliminate standing water from yards. Hall said it takes just a teaspoon of water for the insects to breed.

"Buckets, bird baths... just anytime it rains check and see if water is standing," Hall said.

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department urged residents to give them a call if they are seeing mosquitoes in their area. They can adjust traps accordingly and spray if needed based on citizen reports.

"When you're outside take those precautions because it may not be EEE, but there are other illnesses you can catch," Hall said.

To report mosquitoes in your area call the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department's Environmental Health Section at (859) 231-9791.