FRAMINGHAM – Residents need to take precautions against mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
EEE is a very rare disease. Since the virus was first identified in Massachusetts in 1938, fewer than 100 human cases have occurred, but there have been eight positive cases this year.
More than 60 percent of those cases have been from Plymouth and Norfolk counties, but this year the mosquitoes and the cases have migrated to Middlesex County and Central Massachusetts.
Eight humans have tested positive for EEE this year, including an Ashland man, and a Sudbury girl, age 5. One person has died from the disease, which has a 30 percent mortality rate. And 80 percent of those who test positive, may have some lasting neurologically damage.
Outbreaks of EEE usually occur in Massachusetts every 10-20 years. These outbreaks typically last two to three years.
The most recent outbreak of EEE in Massachusetts began in 2010 and included nine cases with four fatalities through 2012.
The first symptoms of EEE are fever (often 103º to 106ºF), stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy. These symptoms show up three to 10 days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Inflammation and swelling of the brain, called encephalitis, is the most dangerous and frequent serious complication. The disease gets worse quickly and some patients may go into a coma within a week.
There is no treatment for EEE. In Massachusetts, about half of the people identified with EEE died from the infection. People who survive this disease will often be permanently disabled. Few people recover completely.
This morning, September 16, Senate President Karen Spilka, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and several state department heads convened a discussion on EEE at MetroWest Medical Center.
One of the key discussion points was on how to protect yourself.
The state has been providing aerial spraying and the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project has been conducting ground spraying, but Framingham Health Director Sam Wong said individuals need to take their own precautions.
“Aerial spraying and ground-level spraying can only do so much,” said Wong. “It is not going to eliminate these mosquitoes.”
Framingham’s level is at critical. The Framingham Board of Health has voted to prohibit activities on city-owned property from dusk to dawn.
The threat for these mosquitoes will not disappear until a hard frost has occurred this year.
But here is what residents should do if they go outside:
- .When you are outdoors, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and socks. This may be difficult to do when the weather is hot, but it will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
- Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), IR3535 (3-[N-butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid) or oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-Menthane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] according to the instructions given 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% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age. Permethrin products are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear and should not be applied to skin.
- Keep mosquitoes out of your house by repairing any holes in your screens and making sure they are tightly attached to all your doors and windows.
- Remove areas of standing water around your home. Here are some suggestions:
- Look around outside your house for containers and other things that might collect water and turn them over, regularly empty them, or dispose of them.
- Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left outdoors so that water can drain out.
- Clean clogged roof gutters; remove leaves and debris that may prevent drainage of rainwater.
- Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
- Change the water in birdbaths every few days; aerate ornamental ponds or stock them with fish.
- Keep swimming pools clean and properly chlorinated; remove standing water from pool covers.
- Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.