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State health officials reported the first death from Eastern equine encephalitis in Massachusetts this year and urged residents to continue taking precautions against mosquito-borne viruses.
The victim, identified as a man in his 70s who lived in the Metrowest area of Worcester County, was admitted to a hospital early last month and died several days later, officials said. An autopsy confirmed that the man died of EEE. It's believed he was exposed to the mosquito-borne virus during the first week of August.
"Our heartfelt condolences go out to this individual's family and friends," Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach said in statement Thursday. "His illness and death underscore the extremely serious nature of EEE and the need for continued vigilance and preventive measures against mosquito-borne diseases."
There has been one other confirmed human case of EEE in Massachusetts this year, in a Metrowest-area resident believed to have contracted the virus outside of the state. That individual recovered.
The department has previously reported nine cases of West Nile Virus in Massachusetts in 2012, none of them fatal.
State health officials also said Thursday that EEE half been found in a horse stabled in Belchertown, prompting officials to raise the EEE threat level to "critical" in the western Massachusetts community and urging town officials to cancel outdoor evening events for the remainder of the summer.
The EEE threat level was raised to "high" in the surrounding communities of Amherst, Palmer, Pelham, New Salem and Ware.
The department said Thursday's announcement would not immediately impact the threat level in the Metrowest region, but all state residents were reminded to protect themselves.
"Mosquitoes remain present in our environment until the first hard frost, so people need to continue to take precautions to avoid getting bitten," said Dr. Al DeMaria, a state epidemiologist.
Aerial spraying has been conducted in southeastern Massachusetts because of a high level of EEE-infected mosquitoes found there.
Two cases of EEE were reported in Massachusetts last year, one of them fatal.
This program aired on September 6, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.
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