EEE outbreak preparation continues in Massachusetts

Local News

EASTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The local board of health will notify residents if there is a scheduled aerial spraying for mosquitoes.

According to a news release sent to 22News from the City of Easthampton Health Director, Bri Eichstaedt, residents will be notified if aerial spraying were to occur. However, aerial spraying has not been identified as a need for western Massachusetts.

EEE outbreaks tend to occur in two to three year cycles in Massachusetts, and after a record 2019 outbreak that included 12 total cases with 6 deaths, Massachusetts again faces a risky year for the rare but dangerous eastern equine encephalitis.

In 2020, there were five cases of EEE in Massachusetts. The Department of Public Health assess the risk of WNV and EEE from June to October.

Board of Health chair, Maggie Hebert, states: “EEE is a significant risk to human lives and the Board of Health takes this risk very seriously. I trust that the MA Department of Public Health and Agricultural Resources would not recommend aerial spraying unless a significant risk to human lives were at stake.”

A bill (S 2757), Gov. Charlie Baker signed in July, is aimed at improving statewide monitoring of how mosquito-borne viruses are transmitted and updating notifications provided about aerial spraying.

What are the symptoms of EEE?

The first symptoms of EEE are fever (often 103º to 106ºF), stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy. These symptoms show up three to ten days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Inflammation and swelling of the brain, called encephalitis, is the most dangerous and frequent serious complication. The disease gets worse quickly and some patients may go into a coma within a week.

What is the treatment for EEE?

There is no specific treatment for EEE according to the CDC. In Massachusetts, about half of the people identified with EEE died from the infection. People who survive this disease will often be permanently disabled. Few people recover completely.

Aerial pesticide spraying

Aerial spraying is conducted by airplane or helicopter between dusk and dawn in areas of
concern. The pesticide used is Anvil 10+10, a product extensively tested and used to control mosquitoes in both ground-level and aerial spraying in the U.S.

Anvil 10+10 contains two ingredients: Sumithrin and piperonyl butoxide.

Sumithrin is an ingredient similar to the natural components of the chrysanthemum flower and is also found in other pesticide products used indoors, in pet shampoos, and tick control treatments. It is rapidly inactivated and decomposes with exposure to light and air, with a half-life of less than one day in the air and on plants. In soil, it breaks down rapidly and has proven to be extremely effective in killing mosquitoes worldwide for over 20 years.

Piperonyl butoxide (PBO) serves to increase the ability of Sumithrin to kill mosquitoes. The product is registered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and in Massachusetts for this use. It has been used in aerial applications for mosquito control in 2006, 2010, 2012, and 2019, and is also used by some of the Mosquito Control Districts for ground applications.

The (EPA) has evaluated these pesticides for their safety and has determined that they do not
pose an unreasonable risk to birds or mammals, if used according to the product label directions. The product being applied has a very short half-life (one day) and breaks down rapidly in sunlight. The Department of Agricultural Resources has conducted monitoring of honeybee hives during past aerial spraying events and has seen no negative effects on honeybees.

Prevent Mosquito Bites

The 2019 and 2020 mosquito seasons were active for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in Massachusetts. This mosquito-borne illness appears generally in 2- to 3-year cycles, traditionally peaking during August. The presence of EEE last year, a relatively mild winter, and historical patterns suggest an active season this year.

While the risk for human infection of EEE or West Nile Virus won’t happen until later this summer, people have an important role to play in protecting themselves from these illnesses which can be very serious. To prepare for mosquito season:

  • Drain standing water in and around your house or yard to prevent mosquito breeding.
  • Repair window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
  • Use a mosquito repellent with an EPA-registered ingredient according to the directions.
  • Wear clothing to reduce exposed skin when weather permits.

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