Massachusetts health officials say the state has recorded three deaths from the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus, confirming that a previously reported fourth incident was incorrect.
The mishap stems from an incorrect report filed by a hospital, DPH said in a statement Thursday.
According to DPH protocols, a hospital sends suspected EEE cases to the state for testing, and, from there, DPH notifies the hospital if the test comes back positive.
“The treating hospital is not mandated to report a death,” officials said. “However, if the hospital voluntarily reports the death to DPH, it is considered an official report.”
DPH said Thursday that “the official death count remains at three people.”
But, the number of confirmed cases of the rare, mosquito-borne infection continues to grow.
Laboratory testing confirmed the virus in a woman in her 70s from Hampden County, bringing the total number of human cases this year to 12, DPH said.
The woman is being treated at a hospital, officials said.
Agawam, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Southwick, Springfield, West Springfield, and Westfield are now all at high risk for EEE as a result, according to the department.
“Although mosquito populations are declining, the weather is keeping them active,” state epidemiologist Catherine Brown said in a statement. “We continue to emphasize the need for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”
EEE kills approximately one third of the people who contract it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include brain swelling, fever, and coma, and there is no vaccine for the virus.
Facing the first outbreak in Massachusetts since 2012, state officials have found the virus in 422 mosquito samples this year, many within species that can carry the infection to humans.
EEE has also been confirmed in seven horses and one goat this year.
As of Thursday, 35 communities across the state were at critical risk for EEE, 53 were at high risk, and 121 were at moderate risk.