The rare, potentially fatal Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus was confirmed in a horse stabled in Spencer — the ninth animal case of the infection in Massachusetts this year, health officials announced Wednesday.
“We continue to emphasize the need for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites,” state epidemiologist Catherine Brown said in a statement released by the Department of Public Health. “Although mosquito populations are beginning to decline, risk from EEE will continue until the first hard frost.”
To date, there have been 12 confirmed human cases of EEE in the Bay State, including three fatalities. The virus has also been found in eight horses and one goat, officials said.
Thirty-five communities are at critical risk for the infection, 53 are at high risk, and 121 are at moderate risk, according to DPH.
Spencer, where the eighth horse was stabled, is at high risk for EEE, the department said. No changes to risk levels resulted from the finding, however, officials said.
EEE, which spreads through infected mosquitos, carries symptoms of fever, coma, and brain swelling. There is no vaccine for humans.
DPH has continuously urged the public to avoid mosquito bites, including by using bug repellent and remaining indoors during peak mosquito hours, from dusk to dawn.