Despite cooler temperatures, new cases of a potentially fatal mosquito virus were confirmed in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Department of Health announced two new cases of Eastern equine encephalitis — more often known by the acronym EEE — have been confirmed on Friday.
These new cases, which include a woman in her 60s and a young girl from the town of Sudbury, are in addition to the five cases previously reported in the state, which include one death, according to State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown.
Sudbury officials confirmed the girl is 5 years old and is at a hospital in critical condition.
The total number of human cases of EEE this year in Massachusetts is now at seven. Though Brown said seven cases was considered a lot, it is not a lot historically.
The most recent outbreaks occurred from 2004-2006 and 2010-2012 were 22 human cases were confirmed. However, there could be more cases before the season ends, and Brown said that more fatalities are possible.
“Even though temperatures have cooled off, it is not unusual to see human EEE cases confirmed in September,” Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel said in a statement. “This is why we continue to urge the public to take seriously the threat that mosquitos can pose and to take steps to avoid being bitten.”
Thirty-six Massachusetts communities are now at critical risk, 42 are now at high risk and 115 are now at moderate risk for EEE, according to the state health department. Additional cases of the virus have been confirmed in animals this year in Massachusetts: eight horses and one goat.
EEE is rare and potentially fatal.
Typically, only 5 to 10 human cases are reported every year, but about 30% of all cases result in death, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials recommend preventing mosquito bites in order to combat EEE, such as bug spray, full coverage clothing, and staying inside.