Massachusetts Department of Public Health: Use Bug Spray To Guard Against West Nile, Eastern Equine Encephalitis

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By Alison Kuznitz
State House News Service

Health officials urged Bay Staters to use bug spray outdoors this summer, after mosquito samples tested positive for two viruses.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said the Eastern equine encephalitis virus was detected in mosquito samples collected Sunday, June 30 in Carver. The state agency’s alert came a day after officials said the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory identified West Nile virus in two mosquito samples collected Tuesday, June 25 in Quincy.

There have been no human or animal cases of Eastern equine encephalitis or West Nile Virus so far this year, health officials said. Officials said Carver, Kingston, Middleborough, Plymouth, Plympton, and Wareham are now at a moderate risk level for Eastern equine encephalitis.

“The last EEE outbreak cycle in Massachusetts occurred in 2019-2020 and since then, there have been no human cases of EEE reported in the state,” state Department of Public Health commissioner Dr. Robbie Goldstein said in a written statement. “Today’s finding alerts us to the presence of EEE in Massachusetts this year. Combined with yesterday’s announcement of West Nile virus in mosquitoes in Massachusetts, we are asking everyone to take the necessary precautions to prevent mosquito bites. We recommend that people use mosquito repellent when they are spending time outdoors so they can celebrate the July 4th holiday and enjoy the rest of the summer without being bitten.”

Officials described Eastern equine encephalitis as a “rare but serious and potentially fatal disease.” The virus claimed six lives here in 2019 and one life in 2020. 

People ages 50 and older are at greater risk of severe disease from West Nile Virus, officials said. Virus symptoms include fever and flu-like illnesses.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health advised people to consider rescheduling their outdoor activities during peak mosquito hours, which span dusk to dawn, as well as to wear clothing like long sleeves and long pants to reduce mosquito bites. 

“EEE activity in Massachusetts tends to occur in outbreak cycles,” state epidemiologist Catherine Brown said. “When EEE is found in mosquitoes like this at the start of the season, the risk may increase throughout the rest of the summer.”


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