The state is on heightened awareness of the spread of Eastern Equine Encephalitis after a fourth person, a female from Fairhaven, fell ill with the mosquito-borne virus and succumbed to EEE on August 25.
Family members publically identified the woman as Laurie Sylvia, age 59, of Fairhaven. Sylvia is the first human EEE fatality in the state since 2012. In 2012, four of the nine cases were fatal.
The first 2019 reported case of EEE in Massachusetts was on August 10, a Rochester man who is still struggling to overcome it. The second confirmed infection was reported on August 16, an adult male from eastern Worcester County, and the third confirmed came in on August 23 with a man over the age of 60 in Norfolk County.
Several horses and a goat have also been confirmed as having contracted the deadly virus in Norfolk County, and a dead bird near Buttonwood Park in New Bedford tested positive for EEE last week.
Another 54 mosquitos have tested positive for West Nile Virus; however, no human or animal cases have been reported as of press time Tuesday night.
As of August 27, 340 mosquitos sampled by the state have tested positive for EEE.
The state completed a second round of aerial spraying of Bristol and Plymouth Counties on August 25 to reduce the number of mosquitos; however, the Department of Public Health cautions residents that aerial spraying does not penetrate the tree canopy and does not entirely eliminate the risk of contracting EEE.
Marion and Rochester remain in the “critical” risk category, and Mattapoisett remains in the “high” risk category.
Residents should remain vigilant and reduce their exposure to mosquitos by avoiding outdoor activity between dusk and dawn, using mosquito repellant when venturing outdoors, and knowing the symptoms of EEE.
Symptoms, which include a high fever, stiff neck, headache, and extreme fatigue are most often noticeable between three to 10 days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Symptoms become progressively worse very quickly, often leading to inflammation and swelling of the brain that can lead to death or long-term, serious complications amongst survivors.
According to the Bureau of Infectious Diseases and Laboratory Sciences, about half of those who contract EEE die while most survivors suffer with permanent disability.
People under the age of 15 or over the age of 50 are most susceptible to the virus.
There is no known treatment for EEE.
By Jean Perry