The following is a press release from Senate President karen E. Spilka’s office.
BOSTON – The Massachusetts Legislature on Thursday, July 16 passed legislation that will help protect residents from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a mosquito-borne arbovirus that is rare but can be fatal.
The bill, which now moves to the governor’s desk, comes amid an already active mosquito season across the state.
“We must act quickly to protect our residents given the mosquito season is well underway and health officials this week discovered the presence of the EEE virus for the third time after testing mosquito samples,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Central Massachusetts, for the first time, was one of the many areas impacted by last year’s EEE outbreak. With chances of EEE continuing to spread to other areas of the state, now is the time to act. This bill establishes a comprehensive and coordinated approach to tackling EEE that will reach all corners of the Commonwealth. I would like to thank Senators Comerford and Rodrigues for advancing this issue with urgency. I look forward to seeing this critical bill become law.”
Last year, Massachusetts saw a resurgence of EEE, with more than two hundred communities designated as moderate to critical risk by the Department of Public Health (DPH). The virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito and can impact humans of any age as well as animals.
Massachusetts typically experiences outbreaks every 10-20 years, and the outbreak can last for two to three years. In late September 2019, the DPH confirmed three people died due to EEE. Prior to 2019, the most recent outbreak, according to state health officials, began in 2010.
The bill authorizes the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board (SRMCB) to take actions to reduce the mosquito population if the Department of Public Health determines there may be an elevated risk of EEE.
These actions include public education, surveillance of the mosquito population, elimination of standing water and application of larvicides that safely prevent mosquitoes from becoming adults. The SRMCB would also be authorized to conduct aerial pesticide spraying, subject to notifying the public and putting in place procedural safeguards.
Certain landowners, such as owners of organic farms, may apply to opt-out of spraying, and a municipality may opt-out of spraying if the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs approves an alternative mosquito management plan provided by the municipality. The bill also creates a Mosquito Control for the 21st Century Task Force to recommend reforms to modernize and improve the state’s mosquito control system.