Eastern equine encephalitis, known as EEE, has been a topic of conversation this summer, as the rare virus that spreads through mosquitoes has affected residents of Massachusetts.
So far this year it has already infected eight people in the Bay State, including a Fairhaven woman who died of the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only five to 10 human cases are typically reported each year nationwide, and 30% of all cases are fatal.
A Halifax mother knows how dangerous the virus can be, as she lost her 5-year-old daughter Adreanna to a mosquito bite in 2005.
"She made friends wherever she went and she always made everybody smile. She lit up the room, she was just an amazing kid," says Adreanna's mom, Kimberley King.
King says that her daughter was playing outside of their South Shore home in 2005 when she was bitten by a mosquito infected with EEE.
"One day she was perfectly fine and the next morning she woke up with a fever over 104 [and] it wouldn't go down."
The family was told that Adreanna had a summer fever, but she wasn't improving. She was rushed to Boston Children's Hospital and a few days later was taken off life support. An autopsy revealed that she died of EEE.
"Her death will never be in vain and it gives us a little comfort to know we're helping others in a small way."
King says her family donated Adreanna's body for research and it's in 11 different labs in hopes of finding a cure to the devastating disease.
"It means the world to us to know that she's being useful in multiple areas," King says.
After Adreanna's death, King vowed to keep her daughter's memory alive. She has been on a mission to raise awareness about the deadly virus and was a commissioner for the Plymouth County Mosquito Control Project for 11 years.
She says she feels everyone needs to take personal responsibility. While her message is simple, she thinks it can be a life-saver: always use repellent.
"You have risk at the bus stop, you have risk at your mailbox, you have risk when you're out at the playground, you have risk just parking your car and going to the store."\
There isn't a cure for EEE, but King hopes through research on her daughter's body that a vaccine will someday be developed.
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