Baker-Polito Administration Highlights EEE Preparedness Measures

PLYMOUTH — Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito joined Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides, Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel, and local officials on Tuesday to highlight steps the Commonwealth is taking to prepare for eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) this year.

Preparedness measures include ongoing and increased surveillance testing, an updated public-awareness campaign, and mitigation efforts such as larvicide, spraying, and horse vaccination. The administration also highlighted its recently filed legislation that would authorize a coordinated, proactive, statewide approach to mosquito-control activities.

EEE is a rare but serious and potentially fatal disease that can affect people of all ages. EEE is generally spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. There were 12 human cases of EEE in Massachusetts in 2019, with six deaths. There were also nine cases in domestic animals.

“After Massachusetts experienced a significant outbreak of EEE last year, our administration has been taking proactive, early steps to prepare for the virus this year, especially as the Commonwealth continues to confront the ongoing public-health challenges associated with COVID-19,” Gov. Charlie Baker said. “We are implementing early mitigation efforts and reminding residents to take steps to protect themselves and their families. We also look forward to working with our legislative colleagues to pass our legislation authorizing a statewide, coordinated approach to EEE.”

Regional mosquito-control projects and districts provide mosquito-control services to member communities, and have been engaged in proactive, preventive activities since early spring. Spring larviciding applications were conducted by regional mosquito-control districts covering 10 counties, from the Berkshires to Cape Cod, and targeted over 19,600 acres. These larviciding operations specifically targeted the mosquito species that drive the EEE disease cycle, with the goal of reducing the risk of EEE.

Regional mosquito-control districts also coordinated to conduct field trials using three different larviciding products to determine their effectiveness in early-spring treatments. Additionally, truck-mounted spraying using adulticiding products started in June and will run through the end of the summer.

“After last year’s significant spike in EEE cases, it is critical that the Commonwealth take aggressive, proactive measures to prepare for another potential outbreak,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said. “We are pleased to work closely with mosquito-control districts across Massachusetts to support the early planning and deliberate action needed to mitigate the threat to public health presented by mosquito-borne diseases like EEE.”

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