This is likely just the start of a multiyear EEE outbreak that may involve cases around the state and last for the rest of the summer, a state epidemiologist says.
“EEE is cyclical in nature in Massachusetts, with two to three years of virus activity,” state epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown at the Department of Public Health told the Herald. “Outbreaks seem to be a result of new virus strains being introduced into the state by migratory birds coming from Florida combined with sufficient mosquito populations.”
Brown said the last two outbreaks of the potentially deadly disease occurred in 2004-2006 and 2010-2012.
In just the past few days, eastern equine encephalitis — commonly called EEE or “triple-E” — reportedly has put a South Coast man in a coma and has sickened others in New Hampshire. Massachusetts has found the virus in 247 mosquitoes, and the one human case is the first in the Bay State since 2013.
Peak season for mosquito-borne diseases is just getting started, as Brown said it runs from August to September.
EEE is a rare but serious and potentially fatal disease. Dr. Brian Chow, an infectious disease physician at Tufts Medical Center, said the disease generally starts out with flu-like symptoms, and often that’s it — but sometimes it gets much more severe.
“The part that we worry about is where the virus infects the brain,” Chow said, saying it causes headaches, confusion and possible lasting brain damage or death. “Once it has reached that stage unfortunately there’s no definite treatment for it.”
Chow told the Herald, “It’s important to get medical care.”
“The Boston Public Health Commission is closely monitoring the risk for EEE in the city,” BPHC spokeswoman Caitlin McLaughlin told the Herald, noting that there are no positive tests in Boston and rarely have been in the past.
The state carried out a round of aerial spraying last weekend, from Thursday to Sunday nights, over a large area of Plymouth and Bristol counties. DPH has listed nine communities as at critical risk for EEE, all in southeastern Massachusetts: Carver, Lakeville, Marion, Middleboro, Rochester, Wareham, Acushnet, Freetown and New Bedford.
“The counties of Bristol and Plymouth have been the historic hotspots for EEE activity,” Brown said. “However, in years with increased virus activity, birds can carry the virus to other parts of the state where it is picked up by local mosquitoes.”
Brown cautioned people to use mosquito repellant, cover up, dump standing water and repair window and door screens “wherever you live in Massachusetts.”
Source:: Boston Herald