Spike in EEE cases surrounding Vermont could be bad news for next year

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) There has been a spike in the number of cases of Eastern equine encephalitis in the U.S. It has been hitting southern New England pretty hard, especially Massachusetts.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture has been doing surveillance since June and will stop at the end of this week. The good news is no cases of EEE have been found in Vermont. The bad news is because of the spike in the virus from neighboring states, Vermont could see cases next year.

"We have not seen any EEE this year in mosquito populations and there have been no reported human or animal cases of it in Vermont," said Patti Casey, the environmental surveillance director with the Vt. Agency of Agriculture.

Casey says the last time EEE was found in Vermont was in 2015, but the cycle varies from year to year.

"It goes up and it goes down and that's partly due to the native populations of birds," she said.

She also attributes climate change to the virus. But what concerns her the most is how widespread it has been in New England. Casey says EEE can build up in the environment and then all of a sudden there are a lot of cases in both humans and animals, similar to what's happening in Massachusetts.

"We doubled down this year looking for it, didn't find it. So my suspicion is that next year we probably will find it here in Vermont again," said Casey.

Casey is looking forward to the first hard frost when mosquitoes won't be flying anymore. It's supposed to be on the warmer side this week, so Casey is crossing her fingers there won't be any cases this week.

As a whole, the CDC says EEE is very rare.