EEE threat spreads

CONCORD — The Eastern equine encephalitis virus has been spreading across southern New Hampshire as summer winds down, and is now found in the Greater Nashua and Concord areas as well as the Seacoast region, health officials warn.

The mosquito-borne virus has existed in the region for decades, but its prevalence often increases in the summertime, as mosquito populations increase and the weather is suitable for its survival.

Health officials recommend that people wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and use bug repellent or stay indoors when mosquitoes are most active. Authorities also urge people to drain pools of standing water where mosquitoes may breed.

Most persons infected by EEE don’t get sick at all, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but it can be deadly for those who do. Symptoms range from mild flu-like illness to a serious brain inflammation that may lead to coma and death.

“The mortality rate from EEE is approximately one-third, making it one of the most deadly mosquito-borne diseases in the United States,” the CDC’s Web site states, adding, “Approximately half of those persons who survive EEE will have mild to severe permanent neurological damage.” There is no vaccine and no effective medical treatment, but confirmed human cases remain rare: about 220 confirmed cases in the United States from 1964 to 2004, with an average of about five a year, the CDC reports.

The declaration of a public health threat by the state Department of Health and Human Services makes the affected communities — which include Bedford — eligible for funding to help with mosquito control. For more information on the virus, visit the CDC’s Web site, www.cdc.govncidod/dvbid/Arbor/eeefact.htm.

Area towns on the state’s EEE list include Bedford, Merrimack and Nashua.

So far, in addition to the EEE found in mosquitoes at 23 different locations, the virus has infected a horse in Bow, a llama in Candia and an alpaca from Candia, officials report.

No sign of West Nile virus has been found thus far this year.

— Staff report