Massachusetts Announces Second Death in State Connected to EEE Along With Tenth Case

Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) officials announced Friday that a tenth case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has been confirmed by state lab testing. The victim is a Freetown man who has already died of the illness.

That brings the total number of EEE deaths in the state this summer to two after Laurie Sylvia of Fairhaven passed away of the disease in late August.

Meanwhile, there has been eight fully confirmed cases of EEE this year in various animals, including birds, several horses and a goat.

"We continue to emphasize the need for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites," Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH told WHDH Boston. "The unusually warm weather expected this weekend will increase outdoor activity among people and mosquitoes. It is absolutely essential that people take steps to avoid being bitten by a mosquito."

Temperatures in Massachusetts are schedule to reach the mid to low eighties from Friday through Monday, which means more people will be outdoors—and mosquitoes will have a greater opportunity to bite vulnerable people.

A laboratory assistant examining mosquito samples at the Pasteur Institute in the southern Vietnamese city of Nha Trang. In Massachusetts, two have died of EEE, ten have sickened, and multiple horses have tested positive for the disease. NHAC NGUYEN/Getty

The latest previously announced victim of the disease, a 5-year-old Sudbury girl, continues to improve in a local hospital and has been moved from the ICU.

There are 35 communities at critical risk, 40 at high risk, and 128 at moderate risk for contracting the EEE virus in Massachusetts. The MDPH has released a map that highlights the most vulnerable locales for risk of infection. Massachusetts residents are strongly encouraged to take proper precautions against infection by mosquito-borne illnesses, including using mosquito repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, avoiding leaving the home after dusk and at dawn, and emptying any standing water in their backyards.

EEE is usually a rare disease, but it has the potential to be fatal in people of all ages, especially the young and the elderly. There have been sporadic outbreaks of the illness throughout the country, but Massachusetts has had two separate sets of outbreaks—one from 2004-2006 and another from 2010-2012. A total of 22 people were infected during these two outbreaks.

Symptoms of the illness include fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, cyanosis and convulsions, eventually leading to coma. One third of all EEE cases die within ten days of infection.

Over 417 mosquito samples taken over the summer months in Massachusetts have tested positive for the virus.

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has conducted aerial and ground spraying for mosquitoes throughout the affected counties.

Throughout the United States, seven people total have died of EEE across six states.