For weeks, many Massachusetts communities have been on high alert due to the health threat posed by the abundance of mosquitoes carrying the disease known as eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). This disease is deadly in 30 percent of all cases, and no vaccines or treatments exist. Although public health officials considered EEE exceptionally rare in the US, small outbreaks lasting 2 to 3 years are known to occur in the country every 10 to 20 years. These outbreaks are normally limited to Norfolk and Plymouth Counties only, but now state public health authorities determined the risk of contracting EEE to be “critical” in 29 communities, while 39 communities are at “high” risk, and 123 are at “moderate” risk. So far this year, five Massachusetts residents have contracted EEE from bites inflicted by infected mosquitoes, and sadly, one resident died last month due to EEE induced meningitis. Most communities that have been put on high and critical risk alerts are located in the south, but yesterday public health authorities in the state announced that the EEE threat is moving up north.
Three days ago, officials stated that EEE-infected mosquitoes have been found north of Massachusetts in New Hampshire for the first time this year, and nearly a month ago, EEE-infected mosquitoes were collected on Cape Cod. The EEE-infected mosquitoes in New Hampshire were found in Sandown and Hampstead, and the EEE threat in the Massachusetts towns of Ashland, Hopedale and Milford has been raised from high to critical in response to a recent EEE fatality in the area. Also, the EEE risk in Bellingham, Blackstone and Millville has been raised to high. In order to prevent further EEE infections, state authorities will be conducting aerial spraying operations over mosquito-populated rural areas at dusk when mosquito activity is at its peak. Many people contract EEE from mosquito bites while on their own property, so it is important to remove as many standing water sources from a property as possible, as urban mosquito species rely on these standing water sources for breeding.
Do you believe that EEE infection rates will continue to grow in the coming years?