Rare mosquito-borne EEE virus leaves Massachusetts man in 2-week coma

An estimated 30% of EEE cases lead to death, per the CDC

Bob Powderly was enjoying his swimming pool last August when he contracted a potentially fatal mosquito-borne disease.

Powderly’s brush with eastern equine encephalitis, or the EEE, virus put him in a two-week coma and months of hospital care and rehab, according to the MetroWest Daily News.


EEE virus is a rare cause of brain infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 30% of cases lead to death, and survivors often have permanent neurologic issues.

Powderly, 74 of Ashland, Mass., has nearly recovered, according to the Daily News.

But his symptoms began with a throbbing headache, and doctors at Framingham Union Hospital reportedly thought he had a stroke. He was transferred to Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center and was rushed into intensive care after an overnight stay, according to the report.

After waking up from the coma, Powderly gave two thumbs up to nurses. He had to relearn how to walk and he is warning others to take the virus seriously.

“My objective is people need to be careful," Powderly told the Daily News. "They don’t want to be me."

There is no approved vaccine or antiviral treatment for EEE infections, according to the CDC.

According to Massachusetts officials, EEE does not occur every year, but based on mosquito sampling, "a high risk of occurrence of human cases currently exists." Massachusetts officials have found EEE-positive mosquito samples and increased risk levels for becoming infected in Franklin, Middlesex, and Plymouth counties in the state.

Ashland, where Powderly lives, remains at low risk for both EEE and West Nile virus, officials wrote on Aug. 3.

But people should take personal preventative actions like using repellents and avoiding times when mosquitos are the most active.


The key to preventing mosquito-borne diseases is to avoid mosquito bites. Tips for doing so often include using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved clothing, repairing holes in screened doors and windows and clear standing water on your property.

For full CDC guidance on this rare, serious virus, click here.