EEE case, West Nile are found in region
Two new cases of mosquito-borne illness have been confirmed in the state, a month after an elderly Raynham man died of Eastern equine encephalitis.
The state Department of Public Health reported the new cases yesterday, with one being West Nile virus and the other encephalitis.
In the new encephalitis case, public health officials suspected near the end of September that an elderly woman from outside Massachusetts had contracted the disease. She had been visiting Bristol County, and her illness was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, according to a Public Health Department statement.
Hers is the second confirmed case of Eastern equine encephalitis in the state this year. The other involved a Raynham civic leader, Martin Newfield, 80, who died of encephalitis early last month in the state’s first case of the year.
The woman in the new case became ill Aug. 25 after she had spent several weeks in Bristol County. Officials said the woman spent two weeks in a hospital but was released to a rehabilitation facility where her symptoms are diminishing.
In the new confirmed West Nile case, a woman between 49 and 64 from Essex County was hospitalized after she became ill on Oct. 3.
She is expected to be discharged to a rehabilitation facility soon, according to public health officials.
It was the fourth case of West Nile virus in Massachusetts this year, and there were seven cases last year, officials said. People over 50 are at higher risk for more severe symptoms.
Public health officials reminded residents that mosquitoes are present until the first hard frost. Typically, peak mosquito season is over by this time of year, the statement said, but the warm fall weather and flooded areas from heavy rain have caused mosquito activity to remain significant.
“With the nice weather forecast for this long weekend, it’s important that people continue to take precautions against getting bit by mosquitoes, no matter where they live,’’ Dr. Alfred DeMaria, a state epidemiologist, said in the announcement. West Nile virus “and EEE can be fatal, and while EEE risk is concentrated especially in Southeastern Massachusetts, [West Nile virus] poses a risk to residents across the Commonwealth.’’
The mosquito risk level in Raynham has been raised from high to critical, meaning outdoor evening events should be canceled or postponed, public health officials said.
Raynham officials expressed concern early last month over state officials’ decision to wait for evidence of the mosquito-borne disease rather than conduct preemptive aerial spraying, which local officials have requested for years. State officials defended their decision, saying that aerial application of pesticides is one of several preventive measures and that aerial spraying is considered after a region’s risk level is raised from high to critical.
There was one case of Eastern equine encephalitis involving a Massachusetts resident last year, along with a Rhode Island resident who was probably exposed to the virus in the Bay State, officials said. Eastern equine encephalitis is a serious disease among all ages and is generally spread to humans through a bite from an infected mosquito, public health officials said.
Officials encourage residents of Massachusetts to take the following precautions: wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors to keep skin covered, be aware that peak hours for mosquitoes are from dusk to dawn, apply insect repellent when outside, install or repair screens, and drain standing water.
Taylor Miles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.