BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced that eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus has been detected in mosquitoes in Massachusetts for the first time this year.
The presence of EEE was confirmed by the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory in a mosquito sample collected on July 1 in the community of Orange in Franklin County. No human or animal case of EEE has been detected so far this year. The finding increases the risk level of EEE to moderate in the communities of Orange and Athol.
“We have been preparing for EEE activity this year,’’ Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel said. “It is early in the year for the first evidence of EEE; therefore, continued mosquito surveillance over the next several weeks will help us understand more about how quickly the virus might emerge this year.”
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, causing six deaths. There were also nine cases in domestic animals.
“People have been spending time indoors due to COVID-19, and now, as we venture out, we want to remind people about the need to protect themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes,’’ State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown said. “We are also asking people to remain aware of the level of virus activity in areas where they live, work, and play.”