Risk for EEE increasing in Massachusetts: How to protect yourself

Health

SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WWLP) — As of Tuesday, two mosquitoes have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Franklin County, one in Wendell and one in Orange. 

As a result, the risk for EEE has been increased to moderate for Orange, Wendell, Athol, and New Salem.

EEE is a rare cause of brain infections. Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, and fatigue. Over 30% of people infected can die, and many survivors have ongoing neurological problems, according to the CDC.

Last year, 12 Massachusetts residents were infected and six died, bringing the death rate to 50%. EEE is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, so the best defense is to prevent a mosquito bite with insect repellent containing DEET, avoiding the peak mosquito activity hours which are dusk and dawn, and wearing long sleeves, long pants, and high socks when outside. However, this isn’t a problem local residents will have to worry about every summer in the future. 

“So a lot of these things are on these cycles. So outbreaks of EEE happen about every 10 to 20 years, and they last about a year or two, and then they fade away. Then you have to wait and then it will come back,” Natasha Wright, an entomologist with Braman Termite and Pest Elimination Specialists told 22News.

The CDC says people who work outdoors and spend more time outside are at the greatest risk of infection. 

Most cases of EEE in the U.S. have been reported here in Massachusetts, in Florida, New York, and North Carolina.

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