MIDDLEBOROUGH, Mass. (State House News Service) — Public health officials on Monday confirmed the state's first human case of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) of 2020, a year in which EEE-infected mosquitoes were identified earlier than any year in the last two decades.
The Department of Public Health said a boy younger than 18 who was exposed to the virus in Plymouth County has been diagnosed with EEE infection, a disease that can affect people of all ages and is generally spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.
In response to the boy's diagnosis, DPH said the EEE risk level in Carver and Middleborough was raised to critical. Kingston, Plympton and Rochester are at high risk, while Bridgewater, Halifax, Lakeville, Plymouth, Wareham, Raynham and Taunton are at moderate risk.
Last year was the "most active year since the 1950s" for EEE in Massachusetts, with 12 human cases of EEE and six deaths, Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said last month. Public health officials expect 2020 to be another active year for EEE since outbreaks tend to extend themselves over two or three years
Last month, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law that gives the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board new powers to fight mosquito-borne illnesses like EEE and West Nile Virus when DPH determines there is an elevated risk. DPH said Monday it is "working with the local health departments, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and local Mosquito Control Projects to coordinate surveillance and appropriate public health response activities."
Officials said people across Massachusetts should use mosquito repellents with an EPA-registered active ingredient, wear long sleeves and long pants when outdoors to reduce exposed skin, and stay aware of mosquito activity in the community.
By Colin A. Young, State House News Service
(Photo: Getty Images)