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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
October 21, 2003

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
(609) 984-7160


 
New Jersey Reports First Human Case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis Since 1984 -- New Human Case of West Nile Virus Infection Also Reported


 

TRENTON -- The state’s first human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus infection in 19 years has been reported in a young Burlington County child, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. announced today.

Testing by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that a two-year-old Burlington County girl was infected with EEE.  She was hospitalized on August 28 after developing fever, progressive decrease in mental status, stiff neck, seizures, and vomiting on August 23.  She was diagnosed with encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and is now severely neurologically impaired. She is currently in treatment in a rehabilitation facility.

EEE is a rare but serious mosquito-borne illness that causes inflammation of brain tissue and is considered a more serious infection than West Nile virus; more severe forms of this illness may lead to death. This is the 11th reported EEE human case in the nation this year, and the first in New Jersey since 1984.

                “The reappearance of Eastern Equine Encephalitis infection in humans in New Jersey with its serious neurological consequences serves a powerful reminder of the importance of avoiding mosquito bites, even late in the season,” Commissioner Lacy said. “Although New Jersey recently experienced a frost, it takes extended periods of cold weather to end all mosquito activity.  Residents should continue to take proactive measures to protect against mosquito bites.”

Early symptoms of EEE are similar to those of West Nile virus infection, including fever, headache and altered mental status. Not all individuals infected with EEE will show symptoms, and some develop only a mild flu-like illness.

EEE virus can infect the central nervous system and can lead to coma and death. The case-fatality rate is 35 percent, mainly among high-risk groups such as the elderly, children and immuno-compromised individuals. One third of people who survive EEE will have mild to severe neurological deficits. In comparison to EEE, the case fatality rate for WNV infections is 10 percent.

There is no specific treatment for EEE and no vaccine is available for humans.  Those most at risk for the disease are people who live in or visit areas where EEE activity has been documented, people who spend significant time outdoors, and people over age 50 or under age 15. 

The New Jersey patient announced today is the 11th reported human case of EEE in the United States this year. In addition to the New Jersey case, there are two cases each in South Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Georgia, and one each in Louisiana and Virginia.

EEE also causes illness in horses. This year, six horses have been infected with EEE, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. A vaccine is available for horses.

                               

27th Human Case of WNV Infection

The 27th human case of West Nile Virus infection was reported in a Hunterdon County man who had an onset of fever, altered mental status, muscle weakness, and stiff neck on September 25 and was hospitalized on the same day with a diagnosis of meningitis.  He was discharged from the hospital on October 8 and is recovering.  The patient worked outdoors around his residence and reported numerous mosquito bites.

“This year, although incidence of human West Nile Virus infection in New Jersey is on par with last year, the nation has seen a significant increase in the number of cases,’’ said Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, DHSS State Epidemiologist and Assistant Commissioner.  “We are already beginning to plan for next year’s mosquito control activities to keep cases of all mosquito-borne disease to a minimum.”

Prevention of EEE and WNV Infection

Residents can avoid mosquito bites and reduce their risk of both the EEE and West Nile viruses by keeping window screens in good repair, eliminating standing water where mosquitoes can breed, wearing long-sleeved clothing - especially at dawn and dusk, and using inspect repellent containing DEET. Residents should also clean, empty and remove any items on their property that collect and hold water to reduce the available breeding ground for mosquitoes. 

For more information on EEE, visit the department's website at http://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/f_eee.htm.  For more WNV information, visit http://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/westnile/enceph.htm. 

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