For Immediate Release - August 20, 2013

State Public Health Officials Announce First Human Case Of EEE in a Massachusetts Resident this Season

Residents urged to take precautions against mosquito bites

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced the first human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in a Massachusetts resident. The woman, a resident of Norfolk County in her 80s, was hospitalized in mid-August and died several days later.

DPH is conducting an epidemiological investigation to determine where the woman was most likely exposed to infected mosquitoes. Assessment of EEE risk areas will depend on the findings of this investigation.

“Our condolences go out to this individual’s family and friends,” said DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett. “This underscores the serious nature of EEE and the need for vigilance. While the investigation is ongoing, this is a reminder to continue to use personal protection against mosquito bites, including covering exposed skin when outdoors, limiting outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, and using approved insect repellants.”

There were seven cases of EEE in Massachusetts in 2012. EEE is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. EEE is a serious disease in all ages and can cause death.

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 common serious complication. The disease generally worsens quickly, and some patients may go into a coma within a week.

No matter where they live, individuals should continue to take personal precautions to avoid mosquito bites and the illnesses that can be caused. Precautions include:

Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • Apply Insect Repellent when Outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] or IR3535 according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.
  • Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning
  • Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites. Wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home

  • Drain Standing Water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.
  • Install or Repair Screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.

Protect Your Animals

Animal owners should reduce potential mosquito breeding sites on their property by eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires, and wading pools – especially after heavy rains. Water troughs provide excellent mosquito breeding habitats and should be flushed out at least once a week during the summer months to reduce mosquitoes near paddock areas. Horse owners should keep horses in indoor stalls at night to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. If an animal is diagnosed with WNV or EEE, owners are required to report to Department of Agriculture (DAR), Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795 and to the Department of Public Health (DPH) by calling 617-983-6800.

More information, including all WNV and EEE positive results from 2013, can be found on the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page at www.mass.gov/dph/mosquito or by calling the DPH Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.

DPH has produced a series of 30-second videos on how to prevent mosquito and tick bites and the illnesses that can result. All videos can be found at www.mass.gov/MosquitoesAndTicks. Media outlets are encouraged to share these videos on their websites. Instructions on how to embed the videos into external websites are included on this webpage.

# # #