‘He didn’t deserve this’: Mass. man who died from EEE loved working in his yard, family says

James Longworth, 78, was the second person to die from the virus in Massachusetts within a month.

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A 78-year-old Freetown man who died last week after contracting the rare, mosquito-borne Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus was a carpenter who loved working in his yard, his family said.

James Longworth, the second person to die from EEE in Massachusetts in less than a month, may have been bitten by an infected mosquito while working in his backyard, his wife, Diane Balestracci, told WCVB.

Longworth, a father and grandfather, always took precautions to prevent mosquito bites but was still diagnosed with the infection, WBZ-TV reported.

He began feeling unwell on Sept. 14, collapsed twice, and was brought to the hospital, according to the news station.


He did not appear to have any bug bites, WBZ-TV reports.

According to his obituary, Longworth died on Sept. 19 at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford. A “Celebration of Life” will be held at a later date.

Balestracci, describing Longworth as “a wonderful man,” told WCVB the couple was married for 27 years.

“He didn’t deserve this,” she said.

Massachusetts is currently experiencing its first outbreak of EEE since 2012. The virus, which can trigger brain swelling, fever, and coma, has no vaccine.

Last month, a Fairhaven woman died after she was diagnosed and hospitalized with the virus. Eight cases of EEE in animals have also been confirmed this year, according to state officials, who say the virus was found in seven horses and one goat.

EEE kills approximately one third of the people who contract it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state Department of Public Health announced the death of a man in his 70s from Bristol County — now known to be Longworth — on Friday.

Thirty-five communities across the state were at critical risk for EEE, 40 were at high risk, and 128 were at moderate risk at the time.

Aerial spraying for mosquito control was scheduled to take place over the weekend in parts of Bristol and Plymouth counties.


State officials said people should try to avoid mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved clothing and bug repellant; staying indoors after dark; and by taking precautions to mosquito-proof homes by repairing broken window and door screens and draining standing water.