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A man in his 90s has been confirmed to have Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), the third human case of the virus in Massachusetts this year, and officials raised the risk level in three towns.
Department of Public Health officials said the man was exposed in Plymouth County and has been diagnosed with EEE infection, a disease that can affect people of all ages and is generally spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. In response to the man's diagnosis, DPH said the EEE risk level in Halifax has been raised to critical, and the risk levels in East Bridgewater and Hanson were raised to high.
Statewide, there are four municipalities at critical risk of EEE (Halifax, Carver, Middleborough and Wilbraham), nine more at high risk of EEE (Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, Monson, Hampden, Hanson, Kingston, Plympton, Rochester and Wareham), and another 18 at moderate risk for EEE (Pembroke, Canton, Raynham, East Longmeadow, Springfield, New Salem, Douglas, Wendell, Lakeville, Palmer, Pepperell, Orange, Plymouth, Chicopee, Ludlow, West Bridgewater, Athol and Taunton). The state maintains a map of the risk level in each community.
Officials said people across Massachusetts should use mosquito repellents with an EPA-registered active ingredient, wear long sleeves and long pants when outdoors to reduce exposed skin, and stay aware of mosquito activity in the community.
Last year was the "most active year since the 1950s" for EEE in Massachusetts, with 12 human cases of EEE and six deaths, Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said last month. Public health officials expect 2020 to be another active year for EEE since outbreaks tend to extend themselves over two or three years.
Last month, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law that gives the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board new powers to fight mosquito-borne illnesses like EEE and West Nile Virus when DPH determines there is an elevated risk.
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