Recent research indicates the Eastern equine encephalitis virus survives the winter in snakes. The reptiles do not become sick, but researchers believe their slowed immune systems during hibernation can't eradicate the virus. Mosquitoes likely pick up the virus from snakes when the reptiles emerge from hibernation and spread it to other species, including humans. About six cases of EEE occur in humans every year in the U.S., resulting in severe brain inflammation that can cause disability or death, according to the CDC. The new research may lead to targeted eradication of those mosquito species that feed on the snakes early in the year.
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