PLYMOUTH (CBS) – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said the state is expecting another summer with a high number of cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).

Baker spoke about EEE preparations during a press conference Tuesday in Plymouth.

“Every few years there are outbreaks with a higher number of cases,” said Baker. “We saw one of those just last summer. During the 2019 season, there were 12 human cases of EEE and six people died from those infections. It’s important to keep in mind that EEE outbreaks typically last two or three years. That means that we can expect the 2020 season to feature a high number of cases, again.”

Mosquitoes have already tested positive for EEE in Wendell, as well as the Orange and Athol area. Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said early July is the earliest EEE has been found in mosquitoes in 20 years.

“We are stepping up our surveillance this season and stepping up the accuracy and rapidity with which we provide that information, so that we can use a data driven approach to address this public health issue,” said Bharel.

Horse owners are asked to be aware that EEE causes fatal neurologic diseases. Eight horses died of the virus last year.

“There’s an effective vaccine for horses. There is not, unfortunately, a treatment or vaccine available for humans,” said Kathleen Theoharides, Secretary for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Bharel and Baker said that, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, it is critical for people to get outside. But they urged residents to use bug spray and wear long sleeves or pants when possible in order to prevent the spread of EEE.

“We want the residents of Massachusetts to go outside and enjoy outdoor time with their families,” said Bharel. “But just like we asked you to take precautions against the other virus that causes COVID, we ask you to take enhanced precautions against EEE, so that we can protect ourselves and continue to enjoy the outdoors.”

For more information on EEE, visit the state’s website.

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