Just a few days ago, public health officials in Massachusetts stated that the deadly mosquito-borne disease, eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), no longer poses a threat to residents in the state. While many may think that the cold fall weather in Massachusetts killed off all mosquitoes in the state at least a month ago, this would not be the case. Generally, disease-carrying mosquitoes do not pose much of a threat to people in urban and residential areas of the northeast once the month of October rolls around, but a small number of mosquitoes remain active well into November in the region. Residents should continue to take protective measures against mosquito bites until the first hard frost arrives to kill off the entirety of the mosquito population. Now that this has occurred in Massachusetts, residents can consider this year’s tragic mosquito season officially over, while experts do everything they can to develop better area-wide methods of urban mosquito control.
This year’s mosquito season in Massachusetts saw 12 residents contract EEE, three of whom ultimately passed away from the viral disease. According to experts with the CDC, EEE kills 30 percent of those who contract the disease, which is consistent with the 25 percent of EEE sufferers who died this year after contracting the virus from mosquito bites earlier this spring and summer. Based on the population numbers of EEE-carrying mosquito species throughout Massachusetts, well over 100 communities in the state were considered at “high,” or “critical” risk for EEE during most of the summer season. Local leaders of high risk communities enacted a curfew to prevent residents from sustaining bites from EEE-carrying mosquito species, all of which become active biters during early evening and nighttime hours.
In addition to these public health measures, entomologists and public health professionals in Massachusetts conducted aerial insecticide spraying operations in mosquito-populated areas in order to reduce their numbers. Despite this area-wide control effort, at least 10 residents were infected with EEE. However, this does not mean that aerial spraying is ineffective, as the EEE outbreak this year would certainly have been worse had such measures not been taken, but experts do not deny that more effective area-wide mosquito control methods must be developed. It is also important for residents to protect themselves from mosquito bites by using repellent products that contain either DEET or Picaridin.
Do you believe that next year will see another EEE outbreak in Massachusetts?