In response to the state’s “high risk” Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) infection status in Marion, Mattapoisett, and Rochester, Plymouth County Mosquito Control conducted local spraying throughout the Tri-Town to try and cull the mosquito population and lessen residents’ chances of contracting the dangerous mosquito-borne virus.
The Massachusetts Department of Health (DPH) issued the “high risk” to the Tri-Town and other towns in the region after an elevated number of mosquitos tested positive for EEE. A high risk level means that conditions could likely lead to a human EEE infection.
The number of EEE infected mosquitos found in Mattapoisett was not specified in the DPH data, but nine mosquitos tested positive in Marion and three in Rochester.
“We have been at high risk because of other factors in the past, but of those I have spoken with, no one recalls having nine positive mosquito samples on the same day in Marion before,” Marion Public Health Nurse Kathleen Downey told The Wanderer. “However, this doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.”
According to Downey, data from 2014-2018 for Marion shows that Marion had only one mosquito test positive in 2014 for EEE.
In 2017, 5,496 mosquito samples were taken and tested for EEE. Only one positive was identified in Massachusetts that year. This year a total of 186 mosquitos in Massachusetts tested positive for EEE.
As of press time, 22 municipalities in Massachusetts were under a high risk advisory for EEE.
Under a “high risk” advisory, municipalities are advised to restrict activities on town-owned properties to the hours between dusk and dawn, causing some events such as the Tri-Town National Night Out on Tuesday to alter its hours and also leaving the Rochester Country Fair organizers scrambling to reschedule events taking place at night and even having to cancel its events Thursday and Friday, as well as the evening events slated for Saturday and Sunday, August 10 and 11.
Spraying took place in the early morning hours of Monday, August 5 in Mattapoisett and Marion with Rochester slated for spraying later in the week, and local boards of health and health directors urged residents to take other precautions to mitigate mosquito population increases by emptying any containers of standing water on their properties where mosquitos lay their eggs. Residents are also cautioned to avoid spending time outside during peak mosquito hours, from dusk until dawn, wear long sleeve shirts and long pants while outdoors, and use mosquito repellants containing DEET, permethrin, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus, according to the instructions on the product label.
“The best approach to this disease is to take reasonable preventive measures to decrease the risk of contracting the disease,” Downey said. “We recognize that it is a frustration to be told that evening plans need to be changed, but we also appreciate our responsibility to inform and support the good health of our town residents. EEE is an extremely serious disease that is associated with a high mortality rate and lifelong complications for many who survive the disease.”
People under the age of 15 and over 50 are especially at risk for serious illness. Although EEE is a relatively rare disease, it is a serious one and sometimes deadly. About 33 percent of EEE infected people die, while some survivors suffer from ongoing long-term neurological effects. There are some who may contract the virus but remain asymptomatic.
Symptoms such as chills, malaise, fever, muscle pain, and joint pain can start between four and 10 days after a bite from an infected mosquito and can last one to two weeks.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes the signs and symptoms in encephalitic patients as fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, cyanosis, convulsions, and coma.
There is no vaccine to protect against the EEE virus.
Tri-Town local health departments continue to work closely with MDPH and other agencies.
Information about EEE and reports of current and historical EEE virus activity in Massachusetts can be found on the MDPH website at www.mass.gov/dph/mosquito.
By Jean Perry