A southern Bristol County woman who became the fourth confirmed human case of the EEE virus in Massachusetts this year has died, according to her family and a local union.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced the infection of a woman over the age of 50 in a statement late Sunday afternoon.
About two hours later, Teamsters Local 59 said in a Facebook post that the victim, whom the union identified as Laurie Sylvia, wife of Local 59 President Robert Sylvia Jr., had died.
“It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we inform you Laurie Sylvia has passed away,” the union said. In a Saturday night posting, the union wrote, “For the last several days we were hopeful that with the best possible care from the Doctors and Staff at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, she would be able to recover. We have just learned that this will not be the case.”
A DPH spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation Sunday night.
In a separate Facebook post, the Sylvias’ daughter, Jen Sylvia, said she had “had to say goodbye to my best friend.”
“My mum was my favorite person in the world,” she wrote. “She brought light and joy to everyone she came across. . . . Each day going forward I will see her smile in my mind, live and love with everything I have. I will honor her memory and find myself again. I have so much of her inside of me.”
Laurie Sylvia’s Facebook page listed her hometown as Fairhaven.
There have been 22 human cases of EEE in Massachusetts in two outbreaks between 2004-2006 and 2010-2012, according to the DPH statement. Fourteen of the cases involved residents from Bristol and Plymouth counties.
There have been 333 mosquitoes that have tested positive for traces of the virus this year, according to the statement. Many of the species tested were able to spread the virus to people.
Symptoms of EEE tend to show three to 10 days after being bitten, and include fever, stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy, according to state health officials. The disease can lead to swelling of the brain and neurological damage.
There is no treatment for the disease, few recover completely. About half who contracted EEE died from the infection, while survivors are often permanently disabled, state health officials said.
Residents can take precautions by using insect repellents, wearing long sleeves, avoiding the outdoors from around dawn and dusk during peak mosquito season, repairing damaged window and door screens, and removing standing water from the areas around their home.