EEE outbreaks not uncommon in Massachusetts


****UPDATE: State health officials have made a correction Thursday confirming that 3 people have died from EEE in Massachusetts instead of 4.****

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health confirmed a fourth person has died from eastern equine encephalitis. This time, it was a person in Essex County.

“Most people who get infected with this do not die, they do relatively well,” said Dr. Ira Helfand of Family Care Medical Center in Springfield. “But, a small percentage of people with underlying medical conditions or are frail, do die from it.”

Outbreaks of EEE usually occur in Massachusetts every 10 to 20 years, according to the Department of Public Health. The most recent was in 2010 and included nine cases with four deaths. Another outbreak began in 2004 and lasted 2 years. Thirteen people were infected then.

People walking in Forest Park told 22News, the recent EEE cases are making them think about wearing bug spray more.

“It’s a good idea, especially when I’m walking out here,” said Betsy Port of Longmeadow.

Symptoms of EEE are fever, stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy. The virus can worsen very quickly and some people go into a coma within a week.

But, Dr. Helfand added that people really shouldn’t panic over triple e, because the chances of getting it, are still very low. People should, though, continue to use bug spray, and avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn.

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