"It is interesting, for something between 1831 and 1959 there were about 13 total cases documented. But for the first time this year there are at least 36."
– Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to Axios
Background: EEE is a member of the alphavirus family, which tends to attack the brain. The virus is spread mainly by Culiseta melanura mosquitoes and various bird trees found in woodland, but it can also circulate in small mammals, reptiles or amphibians, according to NIAID.
- While human infections are rare and most (96%) do not show symptoms, the death rate for those experiencing symptoms is "really high," at about 35% mortality, while many others suffer permanent and severe neurological damage, Fauci says. 19659005] Scientists do not yet know why the virus can sometimes break the blood-brain barrier and cause damage, Fauci adds.
Latest: As of November 19, there have been 36 confirmed cases and 14 deaths from EEE virus disease in eight states, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These were in: Connecticut (4), Indiana (1), Massachusetts (12), Michigan (10), North Carolina (1), New Jersey (4), Rhode Island (3) and Tennessee (1).  In a perspective piece in the New England Journal of Medicine published Wednesday, NIAID officials including Fauci cataloged the threat of the growing spread of vector-borne diseases (from mosquitoes or ticks) to humans, such as the EEE.  Four vector-borne human diseases "have developed" so that they now infect A. aegypti mosquitoes, which mainly feed on humans, the authors pointed out. These are dengue, yellow fever, Zika and chikungunya.
Threat Level: "You don't want Aedes to adapt to that [EEE virus]," says Fauci. It hasn't happened yet, he points out, but researchers "keep an eye on it."
What's next: Some CDC officials earlier this year requested a national defense strategy to coordinate health responses to all vector-borne diseases.
- There is also an EEE virus vaccine under development by the US Army which is currently in clinical trial.
Going deeper: The earth is facing mass extinctions