First animal case of EEE found in Massachusetts

Residents urged to take precautions against mosquito bites

Photo Courtesy: MGNonline/Wiki Commons: CDC/ James Gathany
Photo Courtesy: MGNonline/Wiki Commons: CDC/ James Gathany

BOSTON (WWLP) – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Thursday the first case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis infection detected in an animal for 2014.

According to Anne Roach of the DPH, the EEE was found in a deer from Freetown, a town located in Bristol County. Now the EEE risk level in Freetown has been raised to “high.” The risk level in the surrounding towns of Lakeville, Berkley, Swansea, Somerset, Fall River, Rochester, Dartmouth, New Bedford, and Acushnet has been raised to “moderate.”

Due to the “high” risk level, DPH recommends that Freetown reschedule evening outdoor community events to avoid the peak mosquito activity hours between dusk and dawn.

“EEE is an annual occurrence in Massachusetts, and detection of EEE in a mammal should remind residents to take precautions when outdoors,” said DPH State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Catherine Brown. “Use insect repellant, cover up exposed skin, and avoid outdoor activities at dusk and night time, when mosquitoes are at their most active.”

There have been no human cases of West Nile virus or EEE so far this year. Last year, there was one case of EEE acquired by a Massachusetts resident. EEE is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. EEE is a serious disease in all ages and can even cause death.

Below of tips on how to protect yourself from mosquito borne illnesses:

Avoid Mosquito Bites

Apply Insect Repellent when Outdoors: Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 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% 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.

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 either draining or discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.

Install or Repair Screens: Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your 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 diagnosed with WNV or EEE, owners are required to report to DAR, Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795 and to the Department of Public Health (DPH) by calling 617-983-6800.

More information, including all WNV and EEE positive results, can be found on the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page at www.mass.gov/dph/mosquito or by calling the DPH Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.

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