A man in Massachusetts has slipped into a coma after contracting the rare, life-threatening Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus, according to his family.
The virus either comes on like a sudden, intense cold, then disappears altogether, or it it comes on more slowly, but severely, causing diarrhea, vomiting, headache, loss of appetite and, as was the case for the over-60-year-old man, coma.
Health department officials have not identified the man aside from giving an approximate age and the fact that he lives in Plymouth county but Tess Hiller Hedblom, from Rochester, Massachusetts, posted to Facebook about her father's diagnosis.
Between 30 and 50 percent of people that contract the rare bug-borne disease don't survive it, putting Massachusetts on high alert, and its cousin, Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis (VEE) is one of the World Health Organization's top priority viruses.
A Massachusetts man fell into a coma after he was bitten by a mosquito and contracted the rare disease, EEE, a life-threatening brain-swelling condition on the rise in the US (file image)
'The news is both shocking and heartbreaking,' she wrote.
Tess and her family have no idea where or when her father was bitten, because for most of us it's such an innocuous occurrence, we'd never think to make mental note of it.
There are only about six cases of the brain-swelling illness in the US on average - but as the planet warms, mosquito-borne diseases are a growing risk, especially on the East Coast, where mosquitoes that carry EEE live.
'Today’s news is evidence of the significant risk from EEE and we are asking residents to take this risk very seriously,' said Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Dr Monica Bharel, MD.
'We will continue to monitor this situation and the impacted communities.'
At least over the course of the last decade, there have been more cases of EEE in Florida than any other state.
But Massachusetts comes in a close second.
Between 2009 and 2018, Florida has seen 13 cases of EEE. Massachusetts has seen 10.
And only one state West of the Mississippi River - Montana - has had a single case of the virus in the same time period.
WHERE EEE THRIVES AND WHY IT'S STRIKING MORE HUMANS NOW
EEE makes its home base in Florida, where the climate and wetlands make a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry EEE.
Though the virus is named for horses, the main carriers of EEE are bugs that feed almost exclusively on birds.
Bitten birds then migrate North with EEE as their passengers. Many spend their summers in Massachusetts's rural or once-rural areas.
There, the omnivores of the mosquito family bite the infected birds, get themselves infected too, and will go on to infect whatever their next prey is.
Most of the time they bite horses, chickens or other animals. On