A Worcester County horse infected with eastern equine encephalitis died from the disease last week, the third horse in the state to succumb to the mosquito-borne illness this summer, public health authorities said today.
The 3-year-old horse from Lancaster developed symptoms Aug. 12 and died the next day, the state Department of Public Health said. A week earlier, a horse in the Worcester County town of Warren fell ill with eastern equine encephalitis and was euthanized. Previously, a horse in Middleborough perished from the viral condition.
"Historically, Worcester County has been an area of low, but not zero, risk for EEE," Dr. Alfred DeMaria, the state epidemiologist, said in a statement. "What this emphasizes is the need for people to take precautions against mosquitoes no matter were they live in Massachusetts."
The infections of horses has inflamed concerns about the spread of the disease to people. So far, only one human case has been reported: A Rhode Island man in his 20s who had been golfing in Southeastern Massachusetts, a long-recognized hotspot for EEE activity, was diagnosed with the illness last weekend. Disease trackers said the timing of his symptoms -- and the lack of EEE in Rhode Island -- strongly suggested he was exposed in Massachusetts. There was no information immediately available today on the condition of the man, who earlier in the week was in critical condition at a Rhode Island hospital.
To avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, specialists recommend staying inside from dusk to dawn, peak mosquito-biting time. If outdoor activity is necessary at night, wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks. Bug repellants such as DEET, permethrin, picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus can also provide protection. DEET should not be used on infants younger than 2 months and should be used in concentrations of 30 percent or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children younger than 3 years.
Homeowners can take measures that reduce mosquitoes' breeding grounds, including draining flower pots, wading pools, and gutters.
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