MIDDLEBORO (CBS) — Massachusetts has its first human case of eastern equine encephalitis of 2020, the state’s Department of Public Health reported Monday. The EEE patient is a boy under the age of 18 and was exposed in Middleboro.
“It’s obviously concerning,” said Erin Maher, who was watching a softball game Monday night in Middleboro. “It almost feels like one thing after another now with what’s happening in 2020.”
In Plymouth County, the EEE risk level is “critical” for Middleboro and Carver, and high for Plympton, Kingston and Rochester. Both Carver and Middleboro have banned outdoor activities on town properties from dusk until dawn.
“Awful. We walk regularly, my wife and I do, and you see mosquitoes,” said Alan Caggiano of Middleboro. “I was swatting them just in case.”
EEE has been found in 29 mosquito samples this year, the state says.
With Covid-19 pushing families outside, and EEE threatening to ruin the outdoor fun, parents in Middleboro say they are treading a fine line.
“At this point it’s trying to find a balance between keeping our kids active, trying to get them outside when we can when it’s cool enough, but also keeping our family safe,” Erin Maher said. “We’re just trying to be diligent while still allowing our kids to be kids, which is tough.”
Health officials are working to determine exactly where and when the boy contracted EEE.
EEE can be deadly. There were 12 human cases of EEE in the state last year, and six people died.
“EEE is rare, but it is a serious disease and public health concern, and we remind residents of the need to protect themselves from mosquito bites as EEE activity increases,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel in a statement. “The single best prevention tool continues to be avoiding mosquito bites by using repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, weather permitting, and avoiding outdoor activity between the hours of dusk and dawn in the highest risk areas.”
The state has information about preventing mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses on its website.