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This year’s outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) put the entire state at risk and on alert for mosquitoes spreading the deadly virus. Twelve people in the state were diagnosed with the virus, with three of them dying from this rare infection. This corresponds with the statistic that around a third of the people that contract this disease dying from it. This illness tends to leave the survivors with severe neurological problems, with symptoms including brain swelling, fever and coma. At its peak, the outbreak this year put 35 communities at critical risk, 53 at high risk, and another 121 at moderate risk of infection. Thankfully, the increasingly colder temperatures, and the hard frosts that accompany them in particular have been killing off the massive mosquito populations scattered throughout the state. Officials still warn residents to be careful of any small mosquito populations that may be left.

Officials mainly rely on the first hard frost to tell them when the mosquitoes are finally gone, as this seems to be mother nature’s way of killing mosquitoes before winter arrives. Most of Massachusetts has experienced its first frost, with most counties being counted amongst those that have had their first freeze. Only parts of southeastern Massachusetts are still waiting for theirs to come. However, experts warn that determining the decreasing risk of catching EEE is not as straightforward as determining its increasing risk. It is much more difficult to track decreasing risk during the end of the season, according to scientists. This is why the Department of Public Health (DPH) is conservative about officially declaring that the risk of catching EEE is gone. There are a number of reasons for this. One factor is that it becomes much harder to lure mosquitoes into traps in order to test them for EEE, as mosquitoes become more and more attracted to living, bleeding food sources, as opposed to the fake food sources traps provide, as survival becomes increasingly difficult. So, in effect, mosquitoes just aren’t going for the traps if they can find a way to get the real deal during these cold winter months. The DPH must also consider how long past outbreaks have lasted into the winter, as previously some mosquitoes with the disease have been found as late as the end of October. Although, this late in the year, there are probably few mosquitoes left, so if there are some still flying around, there are likely very few of them.

Are you still seeing any mosquitoes flying around your home?