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More EEE Detected, First Confirmed Horse Illness Likely

The state has detected eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in more mosquitoes collected in areas of Whiting, Leicester and Brandon.

The viral disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and the three towns in Rutland and Addison Counties are considered hotspots for EEE.

But state infectious disease epidemiologist Erica Berl says there’s evidence the virus is much more widespread.

“It’s important that people all over the state take precautions because we do have some evidence from our deer surveys that deer are being exposed all over the state,” says Berl. “ In fact we’re just starting to investigate a possible EEE case in a horse up in Franklin County.”

Berl says it's likely the horse, which died, was infected by the EEE virus. If confirmed it would be the first case of EEE this year.  The disease, which infects horses and other animals as well as humans, was responsible for the deaths of two people in Rutland County last year.

Berl says there are indications that EEE is becoming more prevalent in the region.

“It does seem like EEE is showing up in more and more locations across New England and even into Canada where it hadn’t historically been seen, so I think something is changing and I think we’re doing a better job at finding it,” she explains.

Among the precautions for protection against EEE, the state suggests limiting outdoor activity when mosquitoes are most active from dusk to dawn, using insect repellent and covering exposed areas of skin.

The state also monitors for West Nile Virus which is also transmitted by mosquitoes.   There have been sporadic cases of West Nile in Vermont but unlike Triple-E none have resulted in serious illness.

(An earlier version of this story has been corrected to reflect that the state advisory applies to the hours between dusk and dawn.)

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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