A Michigan farmer is the sixth person to die in the historical outbreak of mosquito-borne Eastern horse encephalitis (EEE) virus.
Jim Whitmore of Eau Claire fought the infection for three months, before finally succumbing to the brain swelling on Saturday, local news station WNDU reported.
After being taken to an ambulance with a very high fever on August 19, Jim lost consciousness and never woke up.
EEE is notorious for causing life-threatening brain swelling that occurs suddenly and kills a third of those who contract the disease after being bitten by a mosquito.
This year, as temperatures rise and people invade the swampy natural habitats of mosquitoes, several states have seen almost unprecedented numbers of cases, including Massachusetts with 12 cases and Michigan with 10 cases and six deaths.
Jim Whitmore died on Saturday and became the sixth person in Michigan to be killed by mosquito-borne virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, which has ravaged an unprecedented number of Americans this year.
Nationally in 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received reports of 36 cases of EEA.
Of those who are ill, 13 have died.
In a typical year, American health officials would expect only seven cases.
The last year of unusually high numbers of EEE cases was 2012, when 15 cases were confirmed by the agency – less than half the number in 2019.
Like many infectious diseases, EEA affects the elderly, young people, and people with a compromised immune system, initially with high fever and flu-like symptoms.
But if the virus travels to the brain, it can cause brain swelling – or encephalitis – which in turn causes epileptic seizures and pushes a victim into a coma.
There is no treatment for the virus that causes it to reach this stage of disease.
The only thing doctors can do is provide support in the form of a ventilator and IV fluids and hope that the devastating swelling will decrease.
If so, patients are more often than not left with neurological damage. In a third of the cases it never does, and those patients usually die within two to ten days – but can die much later.
Jim was a fourth generation farmer and probably worked on his land when he was bitten by a mosquito infected with EEE
Whitright's fight was much longer, but with little variation.
On October 10, 52 days after he was first taken to the hospital, family friend Amanda wrote LaFountain on the GoFundMe established for the family that had changed little.
& # 39; There is not much to update on behalf of Jim, except that he is still hanging there and fighting the good fight & # 39 ;, she wrote about the fourth generation farmer.
& # 39; Some days / weeks are better than others and often it feels like a step forward and two steps back.
& # 39; We hope and wait patiently for the day he can wake up. & # 39;
It is undoubtedly annoying for families to see how their loved ones fight a disease without treatment or even a vaccine that could have prevented the disease in the first place.
When the cases of the infection hit Florida, New York, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia and Massachusetts, senators Markey and Warren of the latter state asked federal investigators for information about any related viruses for EEA, hoping they would get some clues for the treatment or prevention of the disease.
But no developments occurred, and there was no saving treatment for Whitright.
Another farmer, Bill Teichman, contracted EEE around the same time, according to WNDU. Teichman apparently still fights the condition, but his exact status is unclear.
Although no treatments or vaccines have been developed, the activity of the virus is already dying while falling temperatures in the winter sweep the land, killing the mosquitoes carrying the disease.
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