PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island health officers are alerting the region to the increased risk for West Nile virus infection and Eastern Equine Encephalitis despite the end of much summer activity. These viral infections are spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes and often reach their peak at this time of year, just when people may be lowering their guard against mosquito bites.
The United States is currently experiencing a widespread outbreak of West Nile virus, and the Northeast is no exception. In the United States, West Nile has been detected in humans, animals or mosquitoes in all 48 of the continental states.
As of Aug. 28, 1,590 cases of West Nile have been reported nationwide, with 65 deaths. More cases are expected to occur. Eastern Equine Encephalitis is also of major concern in the Northeast. It is the most severe mosquito-spread illness in the United States.
Symptoms of West Nile virus include headache, high fever, confusion, tremors, convulsions and rarely, paralysis. West Nile virus infection can also be fatal. Symptoms of Eastern Equine Encephalitis range from mild flu-like illness to inflammation of the brain, coma and death.
Because mosquitoes will remain active until the first frost, the R.I. Department of Health joined with other state health officers reminding the public to remain vigilant. •