First EEE Death of the Year

The Norfolk resident, a women in her 80s, had been hospitalized in mid-Aug. and died three days later.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has announced the first human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in a Massachusetts resident. EEE was discovered this season in mosquitoes in our area in July. The woman, who was in her 80s, was hospitalized in mid-August. She was a Norfolk resident, and died several days after being hospitlaized.

The DPH is conducting an epidemiological investigation to figure out where the woman was exposed to the infected mosquitoes and how she contracted the disease. After the investigation, the area will be assessed for more possible danger from infected mosquitoes.

“Our condolences go out to this individual’s family and friends,” said DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett in a statement. “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 last year. And Mass. residents were warned to take precaution from mosquitoes due to EEE and another mosquito-borne disease, West Nile Virus, through the fall until the first hard frost.

Dr. Asim Ahmed from the Division of Infectious Diseases at Boston Children’s Hospital says that EEE will often develop other very severe symptoms in two to three days like seizures, altered mental status, confusion, coma, and even death. He also says that the past few years have seen a change in where EEE is found in the state. “Historically within Massachusetts, EEE has mostly been found in the corridor southeast of Boston in close proximity to the wetland swamps that straddle Plymouth and Bristol counties,” Ahmed says. “[The past couple of years], however, has been an unusual for EEE, which has been found in several uncharacteristic parts of the state: Franklin, Worcester, Essex, and Middlesex counties.”

The DPH put out this statement to share the symptoms of EEE.:

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.

The best way to avoid mosquito-borne illness to to protect your self from mosquitoes. The DPH offers these tips.:

  • 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.