HOLLAND, Mass. (WWLP) – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has detected Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in mosquitoes from Hampden County.

Mosquito samples that tested positive for EEE were collected on Wednesday, September 13th in Brimfield. Due to this, the EEE risk level is high in Brimfield, Sturbridge, and Holland and moderate in Wales.

EEE was first detected in the state this year from mosquito samples that tested positive in Southbridge and Douglas on August 30th. The discovery of this virus has increased the risk level of EEE to high in Douglas, Dudley, Oxford, Southbridge, Sutton, and Webster. Auburn, Charlton, Grafton, Millbury, Northbridge, and Uxbridge are at moderate risk.

The last time EEE was discovered in Massachusetts was in 2020. There have been no human or animal cases of EEE detected so far this year.

Symptoms of EEE include a fever, stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy. The disease gets worse quickly and some patients may go into a coma within a week.

EEE is a very rare disease and there is no treatment for EEE. 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.

Tips to avoid mosquito bites:

  • Avoid spending extended periods of time outdoors from dusk to dawn – the time when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear long clothing to keep mosquitoes away from your skin
  • Use EPA-approved insect repellents.
  • Make sure screens in windows and doors fit properly and there are no holes.
  • Regularly empty out and clean bird baths, unused flower pots, and other containers that may keep standing water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. 
  • Regularly clean out gutters

State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine M. Brown stated, “The forecast is for cooler temperatures which will start to reduce mosquito activity. However, the risk for spread of EEE virus from mosquitoes to people is still present. Everyone in these moderate- and high-risk areas should take the recommended steps to prevent mosquito bites; this includes avoiding outdoor activity between dusk and dawn in the high-risk communities.”

“While EEE is a rare disease, it can cause severe disease resulting in hospitalization and death,” said Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein, MD, PhD. “We want people to take this information seriously and follow advice to prevent mosquito bites. In this case, evidence suggests that staying indoors between the hours of dusk and dawn can decrease the risk from EEE. Risk is high enough in several towns that we recommend rescheduling outdoor events.”

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