A man in his 60s from the Metrowest region of Middlesex County has been diagnosed with Eastern equine encephalitis, Massachusetts public health officials announced Wednesday, but they said the resident apparently was infected during recent out-of-state travels.
The man, the first Massachusetts resident reported to have EEE this year, became ill July 28 after traveling to the mid-Atlantic region, where he engaged in outdoor activities and received a significant number of mosquito bites, officials said.
They said that the man was hospitalized and has since been released. State health officials typically do not release identities, citing patient confidentiality rules.
The Metrowest area is considered to be at low risk for Eastern equine encephalitis, an often life-threatening illness. There have been no batches of human-biting mosquitoes infected with the germ found in that region of Massachusetts, officials said.
Eastern equine encephalitis has not been found in human-biting mosquitoes outside Southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod this year, but mosquitoes infected with the less serious West Nile virus have been found across the state.
Mosquito trapping and testing will be increased in Metrowest, officials said, but they also stressed that there has been no evidence of increased threat from mosquitoes that would merit raising warning levels to the public in the area.
“This is another unfortunate reminder of the seriousness of the EEE virus,” Dr. Alfred DeMaria, the state’s top disease tracker, said. “We urge all Massachusetts residents to protect themselves from mosquito-borne illness. Avoid outdoor activity at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. Use insect repellent and wear socks, long sleeves, and pants to prevent mosquito bites, particularly during those times of the day.”
The news of the EEE case comes a day after officials said that six communities in Southeastern Massachusetts are slated for renewed aerial spraying to combat insects that spread the disease. An initial round of pesticide spraying over 21 communities in the region two weeks ago reduced populations of infected mosquitoes by 60 percent, officials said.
Health officials also raised the risk level Wednesday in several communities, based on detection of increased numbers of human-biting mosquitoes. The level was raised from high to critical in West Bridgewater, Easton, Raynham, and Taunton. Norton and Bridgewater moved up from moderate to high risk levels. All six communities will get repeat spraying.
Following this week’s announcement, Bridgewater has begun to close public parks at 7 p.m., slightly earlier than the normal dusk closing time, said Town Manager Richard Kerbel.
In Raynham, town officials plan to maintain an existing ban on outdoor activities on public property between dusk and dawn. The ban was initiated July 11, when Raynham was initially placed on alert by the state.
“Right now, the ban is in place until further notice,” said Raynham Health Agent Alan Perry.
Health officials in Norton have contacted Little League teams to recommend curtailing athletic activities after dusk.
“We recommend that anyone, if they’re going to be outside, use some common sense and use some insect repellent with DEET in it,” said Norton health agent Leon Dumont. “If you can tolerate it, wear some long sleeves and long pants.”
Dumont said Norton residents have flooded his office with calls, mostly asking about the planned date for aerial spraying. State officials said that spraying would begin as soon as possible, probably early next week, weather permitting.