BOSTON -The hits keep coming in 2020: COVID-19, murder hornets and now EEE is back.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced Aug. 3 that laboratory testing confirmed the first human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus infection, a male under the age of 18 who was exposed to EEE in Plymouth County.
As a result, the risk level in the communities of Carver and Middleborough in Plymouth County has been raised to critical.
In addition, Kingston, Plympton and Rochester are at high risk. Bridgewater, Halifax, Lakeville, Plymouth, and Wareham in Plymouth County, and Raynham and Taunton in Bristol County are now at moderate risk.
DPH is working with the local health departments, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and local Mosquito Control Projects to coordinate surveillance and appropriate public health response activities.
EEE virus has been found in 29 mosquito samples this year, including in species of mosquitoes capable of spreading the virus to people. Information about current mosquito activity will continue to be updated regularly and can be found at mass.gov/mosquitoesandticks.
The first two EEE positive mosquitoes detected in Massachusetts since routine mosquito testing resumed on June 15 were found in Franklin County; one in Orange on July 2, followed by an additional EEE mosquito finding in Wendell on July 6. Risk levels remain at moderate in New Salem, Orange, Wendell, although no positive mosquito samples have been reported in the county since.
The EEE risk level in Westfield and Southwick is listed as low.
People have an important role to play in protecting themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes. All residents are reminded to use mosquito repellent any time they are outside, and those in high and critical risk communities are advised to schedule their outdoor activity to avoid the dusk to dawn hours to reduce exposure to the mosquitoes most likely to spread EEE.
“EEE is rare, but it is a serious disease and public health concern, and we remind residents of the need to protect themselves from mosquito bites as EEE activity increases,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “The single best prevention tool continues to be avoiding mosquito bites by using repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, weather permitting, and avoiding outdoor activity between the hours of dusk and dawn in the highest risk areas.” In Massachusetts there were 12 human cases of EEE in 2019 with six deaths.
Apply insect repellent when outdoors. Use a repellent with an EPA-registered ingredient (DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] or IR3535) according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.
Be aware of peak mosquito hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning in areas of high risk.
Clothing can help reduce mosquito bites. Wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
Mosquito-proof your home by draining standing water, where mosquitoes lay their eggs . Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change the water in birdbaths frequently.
Install or repair screens.
Animal owners should reduce potential mosquito breeding sites on their property by eliminating standing water from containers. Water troughs should be flushed out at least once a week during the summer months to reduce mosquitoes near paddock areas. Horse owners should keep horses in indoor stalls at night to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. Owners should speak with their veterinarian about mosquito repellents approved for use in animals and vaccinations to prevent WNV and EEE. If an animal is suspected of having WNV or EEE, owners are required to report to DAR, Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795 and to DPH by calling 617-983-6800.