WORCESTER (CBS) – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health confirmed a second human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in the state on Friday. Officials also raised the risk level for EEE to “critical” in 10 more towns in central and eastern Massachusetts.
The department said the new EEE case is in a man between the ages of 19 and 30 in Grafton. As a result, Grafton, Hopkinton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Upton and Westboro are all at “critical risk” for EEE.
The wife of the Grafton man diagnosed with EEE says he is in his late 20s and lives near a farm. The couple asked not to be identified, but told WBZ he was diagnosed after having a seizure.
A goat in Bristol County has also tested positive for EEE, leading officials to put Easton, Norton and Raynham at critical risk as well. A total of 19 communities across the state are at critical risk now, and 18 are at high risk.
The department said it is working with local boards of health and mosquito control experts to work on “appropriate public health response activities.”
“The most intense level of EEE activity is still being seen in Bristol and Plymouth Counties,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel in a statement. “However, in active EEE years, the virus may move outside of southeastern Massachusetts. This is evidence of that movement, and residents in the area of increased risk should use mosquito repellent and avoid outdoor activities at night.”
Less than a week ago, the department confirmed the first human case of EEE in Massachusetts since 2013. The infected man is over 60 and lives in southern Plymouth County.
So far, EEE has been found in 288 mosquito samples.
“History, here in Massachusetts, the mosquitos test positive but the people don’t, so this is a little bit unusual,” said Dr. Michael Hirsh of the Worcester Division of Public Health.
He said weather may be to blame. “Whenever there is a winter that doesn’t have a really hard frost, if it’s much more mild, the mosquitoes don’t really ever knocked off from last year.”
Residents should make efforts to avoid mosquito bites, which can spread EEE, including using insect repellent, being aware of peak mosquito hours (dusk to dawn), wearing long sleeve shirts and pants when outside, drains standing water from around your home, repaid window screens and protect your animals from mosquitos.
EEE symptoms can range from a stiff neck, headache and lack of energy to dangerous complications like inflammation and swelling of the brain.
The risk of EEE will remain until the first killing frost.