Update: State officials have confirmed three EEE-related deaths this year and said that a fourth death was incorrectly reported.
A fourth person has died from Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus in Massachusetts as the state’s number of confirmed human cases continues to grow, health officials said Wednesday.
A man in his 70s from Essex County, who was diagnosed with the rare mosquito-borne infection last week, passed away, the state Department of Public Health said in a statement.
A hospital recently notified the department of the death.
DPH also announced it has confirmed the 11th human case of EEE this year in the Commonwealth after the virus was found in a man in his 70s from Worcester County.
Auburn, Charlton, Dudley, Leicester, Southbridge, and Spencer have been elevated to high risk for EEE as a result, according to officials.
“Although mosquito populations are declining at this time of year, risk from EEE will continue until the first hard frost,” state epidemiologist Catherine Brown said in a statement. “We continue to emphasize the need for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”
EEE, which triggers brain swelling, fever, and coma, kills approximately one third of the people who contract it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Wednesday, 35 cities and towns across Massachusetts were at critical risk for EEE, 40 at high risk, and 128 at moderate risk, DPH said.
The virus has also been confirmed in seven horses and one goat this year.
News of Wednesday’s death comes a day after officials confirmed the third fatal case of EEE that killed a person between 71 and 80 years old in Hampden County.
State officials said the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has completed mosquito control spraying for the season.
The public is urged to avoid mosquito bites by wearing bug repellant and long-sleeved clothing, according to DPH. Other precautions include draining standing water, repairing window and door screens, and staying indoors after dark.