Health officials are warning people to stay indoors and avoid mosquitoes because Eastern Equine Encephalitis is here and it’s killing people. And yes, there is a Western Equine Encephalitis, too.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a fairly rare, viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. It is caused by a virus that belongs to a family of viruses called the togaviridae. It’s a fairly large family. Its members can be found all over North and South America.

Here in America, most members of the family have homes on the east coast or along the Gulf of Mexico, but a few have chosen to live along the Great Lakes, and a few brave pioneers have settled in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

The disease they cause is usually asymptomatic. People don’t even know they have it. But in a very small number of cases, the virus gets past the host’s immune system and attacks their brain. Roughly one third of these unfortunate people die. Many of the rest suffer severe brain damage.

No one knows why the virus ignores most people and attacks only an unfortunate few, but researchers suspect that their immune systems may be the reason. The virus prefers victims with compromised immune systems.

If you live on the east coast and got bitten by a mosquito recently and now you’re experiencing intractable vomiting, pounding headaches, double vision, slurred speech, and prolonged fever, go to an emergency room immediately, and by immediately, I mean no later than yesterday. Really, intractable vomiting, slurred speech, and double vision? What were you waiting for? A  sign from God?

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