Vt health officials discuss ways to detect EEE virus - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt health officials discuss ways to detect EEE virus

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Whiting residents spoke out about the sudden Eastern equine encephalitis outbreak in Vermont this summer. After EEE killed two Vermonters this past August, Health Department and Agriculture Agency officials targeted the three towns where the virus was found: Brandon, Sudbury and Whiting.

"We're going to expand our surveillance but still stay in this region," said Alan Graham from the Agriculture Agency.

EEE is no stranger to the United States. It was first reported in the late 1800's infecting horses. In the 1930's, it was first officially identified as a cause of illness for people in southeast Massachusetts. In the past 10 years the northeast has become a more common destination for EEE to land. The virus is spread by infected mosquitoes and causes flu-like symptoms. But the aggressive form of the virus can be deadly, or patients are left with lasting neurological problems.

"I kind of look at it like we're looking for a needle in a haystack," said Graham.

Officials say there is a lot unknown about where the virus comes from and if it will return. Studies continue to pursue samples at deer stations and setting mosquito traps for testing. But now officials want to try a new research method.

"We're proposing a similar study in people," said Dr. Harry Chen, the Vermont Health Commissioner.

The CDC approved human blood sample testing . Although the plan isn't completely finalized, Vermont officials are looking for two to three hundred volunteers from the three towns. The samples will determine a percentage of people from each town carrying the EEE antibody without even knowing they have it.

"It would be very useful for us in terms of grade how often people get sick without having the disease," said Chen.

Residents at the meeting seemed open to the idea of being tested. They say they want to help the state stop the virus from hurting any more people.

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