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Symptoms, which appear between five and 10 days after being bitten, range from mild flu-like illness to full-blown encephalitis, coma, and death. While western equine encephalitis is less often fatal than its eastern cousin, it is still serious and can lead to brain damage and other major complications in about 13 percent of people infected with the disease. About 3 percent of those who develop severe symptoms will die.


The disease is caused by the western equine encephalitis virus, which is closely related to the eastern and Venezuelan equine encephalitis viruses. The virus flourishes in birds that live near irrigated fields and farming areas.


Treatment is supportive.

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