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Deadly mosquito-borne virus that causes brain swelling in humans detected in Florida

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Mosquito (Getty Images)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Florida health officials are warning of an uptick in a mosquito-borne virus known as Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE).

Several sentinel chickens tested positive for EEE, which can spread to humans via infected mosquitoes and cause brain infection and swelling, the Florida Department of Health in Orange County said in a statement Thursday, July 25. Sentinel chickens are fowl that are tested regularly for the West Nile virus and EEE. Their blood can show the presence of the diseases, but they don’t suffer from the effects of the viruses.

Following the positive tests for the sentinel chickens in Orange County, the health department said “the risk of transmission to humans has increased.”

Only about seven cases of the EEE virus in humans are reported in the U.S. each year, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

However, the disease can be fatal. About 30% of people who contract it die, according to the CDC. Many survivors have ongoing neurological problems.

People develop symptoms about 4 to 10 days after they are bitten by an infected mosquito, the CDC said. Signs include sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. More severe symptoms include disorientation, seizures, and coma.

With summer in full swing, mosquitoes are buzzing around at peak populations. Officials warned people to avoid being bitten by draining standing water around their homes, covering skin with clothing or repellent, and using screens to cover doors and windows.

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