Medical Definition of Eastern equine encephalitis

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Eastern equine encephalitis: Abbreviated EEE. A mosquito-born viral disease. The EEE virus normally is found in freshwater swamp birds and mosquitoes that do not bite people. However, the virus is occasionally transmitted to other types of mosquitoes capable of biting horses and people. The risk of contracting EEE is highest in mid-to-late summer. The mosquitoes are killed by frost.

The first symptoms are fever (103-106ºF), stiff neck, and headache starting 2-10 days after infection. Swelling of the brain (encephalitis) is the most feared feature. The disease gets worse quickly, and many patients go into a coma within a week and some die. Those who survive suffer mild to severe neurologic deficits. Very few people recover completely.

There is an EEE vaccine for horses, but not yet for people. The best way to avoid EEE is to avoid mosquito bites (easier said than done).

Reviewed on 9/7/2018

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