A Massachusetts woman died of the rare Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus, making her one of four in the state who contracted the deadly mosquito-borne virus.
Laurie Sylvia, 59, started feeling sick last Monday, and on Saturday the Bristol County broker and grandmother died, her 40-year-old husband, Robert Sylvia Jr., confirmed.
Earlier this month, a Massachusetts man over 60 years of age went into a coma after he contracted the disease that either emerges as a sudden, intense cold, then disappears completely, or slows down, but comes up seriously, causing diarrhea, vomiting, headache, loss of appetite .
Between 30 and 50 percent of people who contract the rare insect-borne disease do not survive, making Massachusetts very alert because Sylvia is the first death reported in the state this year.
Laurie Sylvia, 59, fell ill last Monday and by Saturday she had died of the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus
Her 40-year-old husband, Robert Sylvia Jr., confirmed his wife's death after contracting the mosquito-borne disease
Sylvia & # 39; s daughter, Jen Sylvia, went to Facebook to share her & # 39; best friend & # 39; to mourn.
& # 39; She brought light and joy to everyone she encountered, & # 39; wrote Jen on Sunday. & # 39; She was such a beautiful soul. I don't know where to go from here. I just don't understand how such a beautiful person can be taken away from me so quickly. & # 39;
Over the last decade there have been more cases of EEE in Florida than in any other state.
But Massachusetts comes in a close second.
Between 2009 and 2018, Florida has seen 13 cases of EEA. Massachusetts has seen 10.
And only one state west of the Mississippi River – Montana – has had a single case of the virus in the same period.
Massachusetts began spraying a pesticide on August 8 to try and kill some pathogenic insects, the health department said.
The life-threatening brain swelling affects those who have been bitten by the infected mosquitoes in the eastern US. It is rare, but experts fear it will occur more often
Health department officials had not identified the man who went into a coma apart from giving an approximate age and the fact that he lives in Plymouth County, but posted Tess Hiller Hedblom, of Rochester, Massachusetts, on Facebook about her diagnosed father.
& # 39; The news is both shocking and heartbreaking & # 39 ;, she wrote.
Tess said she and her family had no idea where or when her father was bitten and remained in a coma from August 16.
On average there are only about six cases of brain swelling in the US, but as the planet warms up, mosquito-borne diseases pose a growing risk, especially on the east coast, where mosquitoes carrying EEE live.
& # 39; Today's news is evidence of the significant risk of EEA and we ask residents to take this risk very seriously & # 39 ;, said Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel, MD, at the time of Hedblom's diagnosis .
& # 39; We will continue to monitor this situation and the affected communities. & # 39;
This map shows that many people in the United States were diagnosed with EEE between 2008 and 2019
Between five and ten cases of EEE have been reported each year in the US – but as the winters get warmer, the disease can occur more frequently, experts warn.
HOW THE IMMUNE SYSTEM IS TRYING TO BEAT ANYTHING MAKES IT WORSE
When a person is infected by a mosquito, the immune system increases, but the problem is that the immune system is really a bone instrument, Dr. Unnasch, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of South Florida and an expert in the field of EEA.
The inflammatory response damages the nervous system and you die. So the mechanism by which the body tries to fight the virus actually only doubles the attack on the nervous system.
All that swelling can kill, put people in a coma and, even if they wake up, they probably have lifelong brain damage.
EEE seems to affect immunological people less often than others, but it does attack older and very young people.
There is no vaccine and little motivation to make one because, despite the high mortality rate among the infected, the total number of cases is so low.
The changing climate, its deadly nature and lack of treatment have put EEE on the list of the 37 best viruses from the World Health Organization to see in 2019.
To prevent getting bitten, avoid being outside at sunrise and sunset, especially in swampy areas, and always wear sufficient insect repellent containing DEET.
EEE makes its home base in Florida, where the climate and wetlands form a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry EEA.
Although the virus is named after horses, the main carriers of EEE are bugs that feed almost exclusively on birds.
Bitten birds then head north with EEE as their passengers. Many spend their summers in the rural or once rural area of Massachusetts.
There, the omnivores of the mosquito family bite the infected birds, they too become infected and continue to infect their next prey.
They usually bite horses, chickens or other animals. But in rare cases they bite people.
& # 39; We are a fatal endpoint – and vice versa, & # 39; Dr. told Thomas Unnasch, professor of infectious diseases at the University of South Florida and expert in the field of EEA, previously at DailyMail.com.
& # 39; There is no accidental pressure to adapt, so the virus is less pathogenic … We are just dead and the virus is too. & # 39;
Between 35 and 60 percent of people who receive EEE die from the virus, which means that people are not a terribly beneficial target for the virus.
But people unintentionally offer themselves mosquitoes infected with EEE.
& # 39; In the high-lying swamp areas & # 39; – Like parts of Massachusetts – there is more development in those areas, people live closer to those wilder areas, & says Dr. Unnasch.
& # 39; I am a good example. Here in Florida I live next to a nature conservation center. It is just beautiful. And it's a beautiful habitat for EEE – and I've paid extra money to live next door! & # 39;
Not only do people get closer to the habitat of mosquitoes infected with EEE, those habitats are also becoming more hospitable.
It used to be that although birds with the virus migrate north, the winter would be hard enough to kill the mosquitoes and other animals that carry it.
& # 39; But there has been a lot of (virus) activity in the last three to five years, I think, because the winters are getting less cold and less severe, so the virus can overwinter from year to year, & # 39; says Dr. Unnasch.
And when it hits a human, it can strike deeply and infect the brainstem.
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