Updated Sep 20, 2019 6:48 PM EDT
At least seven people have died from Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a rare disease spread by mosquitoes. At least 27 people have been infected in six states.
This latest reported deaths were in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The state health department in Massachusetts said there are now 75 communities at critical or high risk for the rare, but deadly disease, known as EEE.
The mosquito-borne virus causes severe brain inflammation in about 2% of infected adults and 6% of infected children. EEE is rare, occurring in about five to 10 people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But this year, Massachusetts alone has reported 10 cases, and Michigan eight. One of them is Ronna Bagent’s father, Stan Zalner.
“No one really knew what was wrong with him,” Bagent said.
Zalner was hospitalized three weeks ago, just before his 79th birthday. Tests this week confirmed he had the virus and he remains in a coma.
“It’s just one little tiny mosquito and it can cause horrible neurological effects,” Bagent said.
Residents in affected areas are being told to consider canceling outdoor events in the evening or early morning, peak biting hours for mosquitoes. Officials in Massachusetts are warning residents to use insect repellent this weekend as the forecast calls for unseasonably warm weather.
Although the condition is rare, the mortality rate is high at about 30%, and many who recover continue to have neurological problems. Fortunately, the end of mosquito season usually comes with the first cold snap, and that should be just around the corner.
© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.