A Vermonter is dead after being infected with a deadly virus from a mosquito bite. Now, the state plans to spray two areas in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus commonly referred to as Triple-'E'.
There's no human vaccine for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, but public officials hope quick-action can mitigate the chances of further infection from the deadly disease this year and beyond.
Last Friday, the health department announced two Vermonters had contracted Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Tuesday night, Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen delivered bad news to the assembled crowd at a public meeting in Brandon. "One of the two patients that had E.E.E. passed away," he said.
According to the C.D.C. the virus only presents symptoms in about four to five percent of infections, but when it does, the disease is fatal about a third of the time. Generally, about six cases a year are reported nationwide, with a range of symptoms from flu-like chills and fever to swelling of the brain leading to permanent damage or death.
"Eastern Equine Encephalitis Triple is rare, I want to emphasize," said Chen, "but is a terrible disease."
The state plans to stage an aerial strike on areas where experts found multiple positive results for infected mosquitoes. Thursday night - weather permitting - Vermont will spray down 18,000 acres in Whiting and Brandon.
The mosquito species that carries the disease is resistant to larval sprays so scientists say acting now is the best option. "If we knock (the population) down now we would reduce the amount of eggs being laid," said Vermont State Entomologist Alan Graham.
The effort will cost the state $60,000 and its effectiveness is up in the air. "Unfortunately the range is from 10 - 90 percent," said a Vermont State Pesticide expert at the public meeting.
Officials say the insecticide is quite safe for human exposure but Environmental Protection Agency documents indicate it can be lethal to exposed fish and bees.
Most in attendance say preventing the virus' spread should be the first priority. "I can't say that I'm going to condone spraying," said Brandon resident Christina Keane, "I think anything to keep our community safe would be great, I don't want to see what happened to other families happen to mine or anybody else."
The commissioner told Channel 3 he can't provide anymore information on the individual who died from Triple-'E'. Little is known about the other infected patient other than that he or she is still in the hospital.
Experts say they're unlikely to spray multiple times in the Brandon area - or elsewhere - because the insecticide is only effective if the night air is warmer than 58 degrees.