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Third human case of EEE in Massachusetts confirmed

Cattail mosquitoes can transmit Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus to humans. Associated Press/File/Associated Press

A third human case of eastern equine encephalitis infection has been found in Massachusetts, the state Department of Public Health said Friday.

A lab test confirmed that a man over 60 who was exposed to EEE in northern Franklin County was infected with the virus, the department said in a statement.

As a result, the risk level for two Franklin County towns has been raised to critical, the statement said.

“In addition, one horse from Mendon and one horse from Uxbridge have also tested positive for the EEE virus, raising the risk level to critical in two additional communities in Worcester County,” the statement said.

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Statewide, there are now 23 communities considered to be at critical risk for EEE, 22 at high risk, and 52 at moderate risk, state officials said.

EEE is a serious and potentially fatal disease that can be spread from mosquitoes to other animals and humans. People under the age of 15 are particularly at risk, according to DPH.

The Public Health Department said it is working with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, local boards of health, local mosquito control projects, and other mosquito control specialists to study and respond to the issue.

The two other people who recently contracted EEE are a man between the ages of 19 and 30 in eastern Worcester County, and another man over 60 in southern Plymouth County, officials said.

The state has repeatedly conducted aerial spraying in the affected areas.

Officials said Wednesday that the communities being sprayed include Ashland, Berlin, Framingham, Hopkinton, Marlborough, Milford, Millbury, Northbridge, Northborough, Shrewsbury, Sudbury, Sutton, Worcester, Upton, Grafton, Southborough, and Westborough.

The DPH urges the public to take precautions to guard against mosquito bites, including applying insect repellent when outdoors; being aware of peak mosquito hours from dusk to dawn; wearing long sleeves, pants, and socks; draining standing water; and installing or repairing screens.

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The DPH and the state Department of Agricultural Resources had already planned aerial spraying next week in selected portions of Worcester and Middlesex counties, officials said; now they will spray a wider area.

Communities added to the spray zone include Blackstone, Douglas, Dudley, Holliston, Hopedale, Mendon, Millville, Oxford, Uxbridge, and Webster.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.