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FAQs - "B" Agents

  • If you believe you have been exposed to a biological or chemical agent, or you have received a bioterrorism threat, please call 911.
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Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis (VEE)

What is Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis?

Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis (VEE) is a mosquito-borne viral disease. It is common in South America, Trinidad, Central America, Mexico, and Florida.

How do people become infected with VEE virus?

VEE virus is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Horses can also become infected with, and die from, VEE virus infection. There is no evidence that VEE has been directly transmitted from person-to-person.

What causes VEE?

VEE is caused by a virus that is a member of the family Togaviridae, genus Alphavirus. It is closely related to Eastern and Western equine encephalitis viruses.

Where is VEE found?

VEE is found in northern South America (Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname) and Trinidad. It also causes rare cases of human encephalitis in Central America, Mexico, and Florida.

Why are we concerned about VEE as a biological weapon?

VEE could possibly be used as a biological weapon. The virus is stable in the environment and can survive the storage and manipulation procedures necessary for making it into a weapon. Since it may take no more that 10-100 organisms to cause disease, it is considered to be a potentially effective bioterrorism weapon.

Who is at risk for developing VEE?

Anyone can get VEE, but those at increased risk of developing severe disease include young children and older adults. Pregnant women may also develop complications.

What are the signs and symptoms of VEE?

Most VEE infections are mild with only a small percentage of the infected population developing encephalitis. Persons with the mild form of illness may describe only minimal flu-like symptoms of low-grade fever, muscular pain, or headache. Patients with moderate disease may experience fever, chills, muscle pain, back pain, headache, sensitivity to light, vomiting, and sore throat. Among severe cases symptoms include a sudden high fever, severe muscle and back pain, headache, sensitivity to light, vomiting, weakness, exhaustion, and confusion. Though rare, seizures, paralysis, tremors, coma, and severe encephalitis can also occur.

How soon after exposure do symptoms appear?

Symptoms usually appear in 2 to 6 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

How is VEE diagnosed?

VEE is often diagnosed based on symptoms and travel history. Blood samples to test for the virus are used to confirm the diagnosis.

Is there treatment for VEE?

No specific treatment other than supportive care is available.

Is there a vaccine for VEE?

Although two vaccines are being developed and tested, there is currently no licensed vaccine for human use.

Find the PDF version of this FAQ in the Zebra Manual.