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EEE Risk Increased in 11 Worcester County Towns

By Tom Marino | September 15, 2023
Last Updated: September 15, 2023

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed that Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) has been found in additional mosquito samples from Sutton and Southbridge, earlier this week. The discovery led to the risk level in 11 communities increased.

  • The risk level of the following towns are increase to “high”: Douglas, Dudley, Oxford, Southbridge, Sutton, and Webster.
  • The risk level of the following towns are increased to “moderate”: Auburn, Charlton, Grafton, Millbury, and Northbridge.

Testing of mosquito samples collect on Sept. 1 in both Douglas and Southbridge was the first in Massachusetts that tested positive for EEE this year. Both Rhode Island and Connecticut has detected EEE in mosquito samples. There has yet to be a human or animal case detected in Massachusetts.

EEE is a severe, often deadly disease affecting people of all age brackets and primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. There have been no human cases of EEE detected in Massachusetts since 2020, when there were five human cases and one death. In 2019, there were 12 human cases.

Tips to Avoid Exposure to EEE

The Department of Public Health offers some guidance for residents to avoid exposure to mosquito born illness.

Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • When outdoors, apply Insect Repellent with an EPA-registered ingredient (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 product label instructions.
  • DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30 percent 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 in areas of high risk.

Wear Appropriate Clothing to 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 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 unused flowerpots and wading pools and change the water in birdbaths frequently.

Install or Repair Screens

Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all 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. Owners should also speak with their veterinarian about mosquito repellents approved for use in animals and vaccinations to prevent West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis [EEE].
  • If an animal is suspected of having WNV or EEE, owners are required to report this to the Department of Agricultural Resources, Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795, and to the Department of Public Health by calling 617-983-6800.

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