New Deadly Mosquitoes Virus Has Scientists Freaking Out – It’s like a story ripped straight from a zombie apocalypse movie- a warm, sunny day, and a couple out for a picnic. They set up by a pleasant little pond and sit down to enjoy a romantic afternoon together. The man suddenly slaps at his neck, squashing a mosquito that was in the middle of biting him.
Shrugging it off, he ignores the bite and returns his attention to the girl at his side. A week later the man starts to develop a fever. His internal temperature spikes, and he develops what seems like a migraine headache. Thinking he may have caught a bad flu, the man takes some over the counter medication and tries to get on with his life.
The next day though he’s breaking out in chills, alternating between freezing cold and burning hot. He’s exhausted, can barely get himself out of bed. The day after that he’s confused, starts becoming paranoid and even experiences hallucinations-then, suddenly, he’s dead, and the only clue to his death is the mosquito bite he suffered a week ago.
These are the symptoms of Eastern equine encephalitis virus disease, and in one third of its victims,they are lethal. Even more terrifying though is that modern medicine has no treatment or cure for EEE,and if you become infected, then you have a 33% chance of dying, with no hospital in the country being able to do anything for you except make you comfortable.
If that’s not scary enough, then new reports show that EEE is gradually spreading across the eastern seaboard of the United States, reaching deeper inland and even northwards into Canada. An incurable disease is slowly making its way across the continent of North America,and scientists have no way of stopping its advance.
Eastern equine encephalitis virus disease is caused, naturally enough, by a viral infection. Typically this virus lives out its life cycle alternating between infecting birds and mosquitoes,and humans are not a regular part of its life cycle. When an infected mosquito bites a human being though, the virus infects that person and has its life cycle abruptly halted. Unfortunately, it very quickly does the same for its human victim.
When in a human victim the virus can result in one of two types of infections: systemic,or encephalitic- or when it causes the brain to swell. In a systemic infection symptoms are abrupt, and are often mistaken as any number of other minor illnesses. Unfortunately there is no one or two identifying symptoms that can clue a person into being infected with EEE, and this makes treating the disease more difficult.
If the virus manages to stay out of the central nervous system, then the victim typically survives just fine, often without ever knowing just how close to death they had come. When the disease does infect the nervous system though is when it becomes fatal. An encephalitic infection is characterized by the symptoms of a systemic infection, making it all but impossible to determine if an infection will ultimately move to affect the brain and nervous system.
Pretty soon though it becomes obvious that an infection has turned encephalitic, with patients suffering from severe fever, headaches, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia,vomiting, diarrhea, cyanosis- a bluish discoloration of the skin caused by a lack of blood flow-,convulsions, and coma. That is literally a witch’s brew of symptoms, and combine to make EEE a miserable disease indeed.
About one third of people infected will die from the disease anywhere from two to ten days after displaying symptoms, and sadly there is nothing that can be done for them. There exists no vaccine against EEE, and no antiviral treatment has been effective in combating the disease. Part of this is because the disease is so rare, killing about seven people a year in the US.
Another reason for a lack of treatment is because the disease can be so hard to pin down, that most sufferers fail to get adequate medical attention quickly enough to catch the disease in its early stages, leaving scientists with few treatment options in the critical opening phase of infection. Though two thirds of those infected will recover, many of them are left with mental and physical damage thanks to the infection.
Some people may experience difficulty performing certain movements, or even walking. Others show mild to severe brain damage, and can be severely intellectually impaired. Others may suffer from various personality disorders brought on by brain damage, random seizures, full or partial paralysis, and cranial nerve dysfunction, which can cause partial or complete blindness.
Like with so many animal-borne illnesses, global warming is playing a large part in the spread of EEE, and health officials in the US announced that 2019 was the worst year in recent history for infections. In Massachusetts alone one 70 year old man died in September, and this was the tenth case in that state. So far in 2019, Michigan reported eight cases of EEE, with three deaths, and New Jersey reported three infections.
Connecticut has suffered its first fatality for the year and a second infection. Already in 2019 there have been 25 cases of EEE spread out across six states, and we have already hit our annual average of seven deaths. If that wasn’t bad enough though, scientists tracking the disease have discovered that this year the virus seems to have spread further than ever before.
Scientists tracked not just human victims, but also birds infected with the disease. Typically the disease stays in a small pocket of the northeast US, but now it is spreading steadily east and north as well, with cases being reported in Canada. More worryingly is the fact that some people who are infected ultimately develop no symptoms at all, or like we said before, may develop non-fatal versions of the disease and assume they just caught a really bad cold.
Thus it’s almost impossible to accurately gauge just how far the disease has spread. The disease typically makes its home amongs the birds and mosquitoes of swampy areas in the North East United States. Thanks to global warming though, rising temperatures have increased the stretch of swamps, and extended the amount of time that mosquitoes remain active throughout the year.
Thanks to additional weeks of warm summer weather, mosquitoes can reproduce and multiply in greater numbers, and this increases both the odds of infection, and the spread of the disease. With milder winters than ever before, some mosquitoes are even living straight through the winter season. This means that the following year, come spring time there’s even more mosquitoes ready to take to the air and get their groove on, creating more disease vectors for EEE.
The warmer summers that global warming is also producing greatly boosts mosquito activity,encouraging them to feed and procreate more, and you are very often on the menu for a disease infected mosquito. To make a terrible situation even worse though- as if that’s possible- extreme weather caused by global warming is leading to massive flooding, which in turn leaves behind swampy, muggy territory that mosquitoes can use to reproduce out of control.
The worse global warming gets, the more that diseases like EEE will affect humanity. Weather is not the only factor though, human encroachment into remote wilderness areas is also exposing more people to the disease. Cities and towns are gradually spreading deeper and deeper into the swampy home of EEE, and this in turn is exposing the people that live there to the deadly disease.
While cities are not the preferred habitat of EEE, as with any species, the virus maybe adapting to a new, human-shaped reality. Where once we were insulated from the disease by natural barriers such as forests, logging and expansion of human presence into the deepest wilderness is gradually bringing us more and more into contact with EEE and other diseases.
The situation already looks pretty grim, and yet somehow, it manages to get even worse. In Florida the weather is warm enough normally that the disease can live year-round, and as with any organism this gives EEE a greater chance of mutation. Now, scientists worry that a much more virulent strain of EEE may have developed in Florida, because if something terrible happens to the US, nine out of ten times it originates in Florida.
This new strain not only has a greater chance of causing infection, but may actually be more suited for infecting humans than previous strains. Over the course of decades, this strand of EEE, if not eradicated, may mutate to make humans part of its life cycle. With warming temperatures and ever-increasing encroachment into remote wilderness by modern society, the odds of that happening look pretty good.
If there’s a bright side to any of this, it’s that because of the increases virility of EEE this year, it’s likely that next year we’ll see a reduced incidence of the disease. That’s because birds infected this year will develop immunities, and this in turn will create a smaller population of birds that the disease can infect in 2020.
That’s right, thanks to birds we will likely see less human death next year from EEE, so next time you see a bird on the street take a moment to give it a thank you high-five,then immediately apologize for the fact that global warming is estimated to have killed billions of birds over the last thirty years.
The reprieve from EEE will be rather short lived though, and scientists confidently predict that the disease will only spread and infect more people in the future. A combination of human encroachment on its natural habitat and global warming both will create the perfect conditions for EEE to reach more and more people.
With the climate gradually warming, other arthropod-spread diseases such as lyme disease and West Nile will also increase in virility. So what can you do to protect yourself? Well, vaccines for EEE are today being researched, but there are none publicly available yet. Odds are though that even if we develop a vaccine, it won’t really matter, because the anti-vaxxer movement will inevitably become afraid of them for no good reason what so ever and refuse to vaccinate themselves and their children.
This will inevitably create a glaring gap in the herd immunity that has traditionally kept us safe from diseases like measles and polio, both diseases with horrific consequences that were once nearly completely eradicated, and are now coming back with a vengeance. That’s right, humanity very nearly triumphed over a whole host of diseases that killed millions of us throughout history, and a group of people who refuse to believe in science brought them back from the edge.
For once our power to drive species extinct was being used for the good of all. . . thanks, Jenny McCarthy. With a gap in our herd immunity the disease could not only survive, but even mutate to become resistant to our vaccinations. That is what scientists today fear may be happening with other diseases that we traditionally vaccinate for.
So your best bet may not be to wait for a vaccine, but to take measures to protect yourself from the disease vector itself- the mosquito. Wear long-sleeved clothing when outdoors in areas that are heavily populated with mosquitoes,and make sure you use insect repellent to keep biting insects away. Forget any homeopathy stuff, because again, that’s not science, and make sure that your insect repellent includes DEET.
Remember, as with anything in life, chemicals are only scary in inappropriate doses. For hunters and campers who are the primary victims of EET, government authorities recommend that you wait until later in the season to head out into the woods. The longer you wait for colder weather, the less odds you’ll run into an infected mosquito. Think we’ll be able to control diseases like EEE? Can we really stop or reverse the worst of global warming’s trends? Let us know in the comments.