A person in Massachusetts has died after contracting eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, state health officials confirmed Tuesday as they announced that a new round of aerial spraying for areas at critical or high risk for the rare virus will begin at nightfall.
The death is the state's first confirmed in connection with EEE this year. That confirmation comes a day after Rhode Island health officials announced a death in that state as well.
This summer, seven people in Massachusetts have contracted EEE, a rare but potentially deadly mosquito-borne virus. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said Tuesday in a news release that one death was fatal, but didn't provide further details; prior news releases from the department hadn't mentioned a EEE-linked death in Massachusetts.
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The department doesn't confirm individual deaths, a spokeswoman said, but acknowledged "one EEE-related death this season in Massachusetts" in an email. She said that the case had been widely reported.
The family of a woman from Fairhaven said in August that she died from EEE. State health officials didn't confirm that at the time and the spokeswoman said Tuesday they don't comment on individual cases.
Communities in three Massachusetts counties will be sprayed in part or in full as the state works to combat EEE:
- Norfolk County: Bellingham, Franklin, Medway, Millis, Norfolk, Medfield, Walpole, Wrentham, Foxborough, Sharon, Norwood, Westwood, Dover, Needham, Wellesley
- Middlesex County: Ashland, Hopkinton, Holliston, Sherborn, Framingham, Natick, Wayland, Sudbury, Maynard, Stow, Hudson, Marlborough, Weston
- Worcester County: Berlin, Boylston, Northborough, Westborough, Shrewsbury, Grafton, Upton, Milford, Hopedale, Mendon, Blackstone, Millville, Uxbridge, Douglas, Northbridge, Sutton, Millbury, Auburn, Oxford, Webster, Southborough, Bolton, Clinton, West Boylston, Worcester, Charlton, Dudley, Leicester, Harvard
Thirty-six communities around the state are at critical risk for EEE, according to the MDPH, with 42 more at high risk and 115 at moderate risk in the state's first outbreak since 2010-2012.
The mosquito-borne virus affects the nervous system and kills about three in 10 people who contract it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
State and local officials have ordered spraying in order to combat mosquito populations and therefore supress the virus' transmission to people.