TAMPA — Hillsborough health officials are warning the public to be vigilant about mosquito bites after confirming an extremely rare human case of Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, a mosquito-borne illness that causes inflammation of the brain.
The unidentified victim acquired EEE in the northwestern part of Hillsborough County earlier this month and is recovering, the Florida Department of Health announced in a news release.
The last human case of locally acquired EEE in Hillsborough was in August 2010.
"We are thankful that this individual is recovering, and doing well," said Douglas Holt, director of the Hillsborough County Health Department. "While it's unusual that we see a case of EEE so early in the year, it's not that surprising given that we've had a very mild winter locally."
Mosquito-borne illness advisories are declared when human cases of locally acquired disease have been confirmed, or when evidence of intense virus transmission has been detected among animals.
Eastern equine encephalitis is caused by a virus spread by infected mosquitoes. Nationally, between five and 10 cases of the potentially fatal illness are reported each year.
EEE is not contagious among people; it can only be transmitted through a mosquito. Symptoms may include fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions and coma, according to Amanda Pullman, an epidemiologist with the Hillsborough health department.