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8th horse case of EEE confirmed by state health officials

State officials Wednesday confirmed the eighth horse case of Eastern equine encephalitis virus, or EEE, in Massachusetts this year.

The horse was stabled in Spencer, according to the state Department of Public Health.

“There are 35 communities now at critical risk, 53 at high risk, and 121 at moderate risk for the EEE virus in Massachusetts,” the DPH said in a statement. “There have been 12 human cases of EEE this season in Massachusetts and nine confirmed cases of EEE this year in animals — eight horses and a goat.”

Three people have died from exposure to EEE in Massachusetts this year, according to the most recent DPH figures.

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“We continue to emphasize the need for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites,” said Dr. Catherine Brown, state epidemiologist, in the statement. “Although mosquito populations are beginning to decline, risk from EEE will continue until the first hard frost.”

The statement said EEE is “a rare but serious and potentially fatal disease that can affect people of all ages. EEE occurs sporadically in Massachusetts with the most recent outbreak years occurring from 2004-2006 and 2010-2012. There were 22 human cases of EEE infection during those two outbreak periods with 14 cases occurring among residents of Bristol and Plymouth counties.”

The virus “has been found in 426 mosquito samples this year, many of them from species of mosquitoes capable of spreading the virus to people,” DPH said.

State officials urge the public to take precautions including applying insect repellent; being aware of peak mosquito hours between dusk and dawn; wearing long sleeves, pants, and socks outdoors; and mosquito-proofing homes.

Homes can be made mosquito-proof by “eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires, and wading pools — especially after heavy rains,” the statement said. “Water troughs should be flushed out at least once a week during the summer months to reduce mosquitoes near paddock areas.”

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