State health officials announced Tuesday a new case of Eastern equine encephalitis was found in a horse from Douglas, prompting the risk level for the mosquito-borne illness to be raised in three Massachusetts communities.
It marks the eighth confirmed EEE infection of a horse in the state this year, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The risk level in Douglas was raised to critical — the highest category — and the risk level in nearby Oxford and Webster was raised to high because of the case, officials said.
All told, there are now 29 Massachusetts communities at critical risk, 39 at high risk, and 123 at moderate risk of the virus in the state. Four human cases of EEE have been confirmed so far in the state this year, and a Fairhaven woman has died.
“Cases of EEE in mammals, including horses, serve as a reminder that there is a continuing risk to humans,” Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel said in a statement. “Even as we head into September, it remains critically important that people take steps to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites.”
Officials are advising Massachusetts residents to use mosquito repellent. Authorities are also telling those in communities that are at high and critical risk should consider staying indoors during the dawn to dusk hours in order to reduce exposure to mosquitoes.
State health officials describe EEE as a “rare but serious and potentially fatal disease that can affect people of all ages.”
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources recently completed aerial mosquito spraying in parts of Bristol, Plymouth, Middlesex, and Worcester counties to help reduce public health risk, authorities say.