State raises EEE risk level for three Hampden County towns

State officials have raised the risk level for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in three...
State officials have raised the risk level for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in three Hampden County communities.(KNOE)
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 1:26 PM EDT
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(WGGB/WSHM) – State officials have raised the risk level for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in three Hampden County communities.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said Friday that the risk level is now “high” in Brimfield and Holland and is now “moderate” in Wales. The threat level was also raised to “high” in the Worcester County town of Sturbridge. The new risk levels come after EEE was detected in a mosquito sample collected on September 13 in Brimfield.

Massachusetts State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine M. Brown said in a statement:

“The forecast is for cooler temperatures which will start to reduce mosquito activity.”

“However, the risk for spread of EEE virus from mosquitoes to people is still present. Everyone in these moderate- and high-risk areas should take the recommended steps to prevent mosquito bites; this includes avoiding outdoor activity between dusk and dawn in the high-risk communities.”

There have been no human or animal cases of EEE in Massachusetts so far this year. There were 12 human cases of EEE in 2019 with six deaths and five human cases with one death in 2020. There were no human cases of EEE in 2021 and 2022.

Friday’s announcement comes after six other Massachusetts communities were already designated as “high” risk, including Douglas, Dudley, Oxford, Southbridge, Sutton, and Webster. Six other communities - Auburn, Charlton, Grafton, Millbury, Northbridge, and Uxbridge – have been previously classified at “moderate” risk.

Mass. DPH noted the following information related to protecting oneself and loved ones from mosquito-borne illnesses.

Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • Apply Insect Repellent when Outdoors. Use a repellent with an EPA-registered ingredient (DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-Menthane-3,8-diol (PMD)] or IR3535) according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30 percent or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.
  • Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning in areas of high risk.
  • Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites. Wearing long-sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home

  • Drain Standing Water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by draining or discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty unused flowerpots and wading pools and change the water in birdbaths frequently.
  • Install or Repair Screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly fitting screens on all windows and doors.

Protect Your Animals

  • Animal owners should reduce potential mosquito breeding sites on their property by eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires, and wading pools – especially after heavy rains. Water troughs provide excellent mosquito breeding habitats and should be flushed out at least once a week during the summer months to reduce mosquitoes near paddock areas. Horse owners should keep horses in indoor stalls at night to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. Owners should also speak with their veterinarian about mosquito repellents approved for use in animals and vaccinations to prevent WNV and EEE. If an animal is suspected of having WNV or EEE, owners are required to report to the Department of Agricultural Resources, Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795, and to the Department of Public Health by calling 617-983-6800.