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Many Mass. Communities on High Alert for EEE for Holiday Weekend

State health officials say in addition to wearing proper clothing and using repellent, Massachusetts residents should take steps to keep mosquitoes away from in and around the home. (Alvesgaspar/Wikipedia)
State health officials say in addition to wearing proper clothing and using repellent, Massachusetts residents should take steps to keep mosquitoes away from in and around the home. (Alvesgaspar/Wikipedia)
August 30, 2019

BOSTON – State health officials want Massachusetts residents and their visitors to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites during their Labor Day weekend activities.

Many communities face a "critical" risk for potentially deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis after new cases were identified in horses. Four human cases of "Triple E" have been confirmed so far in Massachusetts this year, and earlier this week, a Fairhaven woman died while being treated for the virus.

State Epidemiologist and Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Catherine Brown says the disease can start with flu-like symptoms and lead to deadly complications.

"Really, it's all about preventing the mosquito bite,” says Brown. “As a virus, there is no specific treatment for EEE, and really, the primary prevention method is about taking the appropriate steps to avoid mosquito bites in the first place."

Triple-E is rare, and seems to come in cycles, although researchers believe climate change may play a role in the increased rates of insect-borne illnesses in the state.

In past outbreak years, critical risk was contained mostly to Bristol and Plymouth counties. Now it's spread throughout the state.

The risk of vector-borne illness could increase in late summer and early fall, when insects have had more time to contract and spread these viruses. But Dr. Brown says that doesn't mean people can't enjoy the last official weekend of summer; they just need to take some basic precautions.

"The mosquitoes that are most likely to spread EEE are most active between dusk and dawn, and so if you can just have your events earlier in the day and then move them inside at around dusk, that really is helpful in those particularly high-risk communities,” says Brown.

Health officials say to use insect repellants that contain DEET and oil of lemon eucalyptus to keep mosquitoes away, and try to avoid swampy areas and anywhere with standing water.

Jenn Stanley, Public News Service - MA