A rare mosquito-borne disease killed a young girl and an elderly man who lived in neighboring towns, health officials said Tuesday as they urged people to protect themselves against the insects.
The two became ill with the dangerous Eastern equine encephalitis virus, known as EEE, within days of a third woman who also lives nearby. She remains hospitalized in serious condition, officials said.
Four New Hampshire residents have also turned up ill with the virus in recent weeks; none have died.
It wasn't clear how or when the disease was contracted by the 5-year-old girl and the 83-year-old man, who lived in the state's southeastern arm, said Dr. Al DeMaria, state director of communicable disease control, reports USA Today.
According to Washington Post, officials advised residents to try to ward off mosquitoes.
"It's critical that residents protect themselves from mosquito bites," DeMaria said. "Mosquitoes will be biting until the first frost."
The United States has had only about 200 confirmed cases of EEE since 1964, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease kills around 35 percent of the people who contract it, and causes mild to severe neurological problems in another 35 percent.
Symptoms range from mild flu-like illness to inflammation of the brain, coma and death. There is no licensed vaccine for humans. The virus also can affect birds and horses.