BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A rare and potentially deadly mosquito-borne illness has been detected in Union County, New Jersey.
The virus has surfaced in several states recently and has already been linked to a number of deaths in the Northeast.
Parks and fields are getting sprayed with pesticides in Berkeley Heights after mosquitoes in the Emerson Lane area – near the Warren Township border – tested positive Tuesday for Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
“I have three grandchildren and it’s scary,” Adriana Austin said.
“I sit outside a lot so I’ll start putting on bug spray,” Brian Esnes added.
EEE is spread by mosquitoes to horses and humans.
In severe cases, the virus can cause swelling in the brain, leading to death.
Common symptoms include fever, chills, and muscle and joint pain.
According to the CDC, about a third of infected patients die and many who survive experience ongoing neurological problems.
“Make sure you have long sleeves long pants bug spray any time you go out dusk to dawn. Also please remove any standing water,” Berkeley Heights Mayor Angie Devanney warned.
The CDC says on average, seven people contract EEE in the U.S. each year.
So far this year there are at least 20 human cases reported across six states – including Connecticut and New Jersey. Deaths have been reported in Michigan, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Health officials add that there is also no human vaccine for EEE, making it even more dangerous.
“I’m scared because my daughter is the type who goes outside and mosquitoes like go right to her so and she’s at softball now so we lathered her up real good and keep our fingers crossed,” Barbara Roberts said.
The outbreak is so concerning in Michigan residents there are being told to stay indoors.
“The state board is encouraging us don’t cancel practice don’t cancel those games just make sure you’re wearing bug spray and protective clothing,” Mayor Devanney said.
Children under the age of 15 and adults over 50 are at the greatest risk.
Town officials in New Jersey say they will continue testing mosquitoes regularly until the first frost.