Two dozen cities and towns in Massachusetts are at "critical" risk for Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, a rare but deadly mosquito-borne virus that killed a Fairhaven woman earlier this week.
A map published by the State Department of Public Health shows that other 24 communities are labeled "high" at risk, while 54 others are considered "moderate" at risk.
The Community is currently testing its first EEE outbreak since 2012. The virus, which appears every 10 to 20 years, has already been infected by four people this month, including Laurie Sylvia, who died after being hospitalized with the infection.
EEE, which is spread through infected mosquitoes, commonly found in and around freshwater, solid marshes, can cause symptoms such as swelling, fever and coma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Death usually occurs rs 2 to 10 days after the onset of symptoms but may occur much later," says the CDC. "Of those who are recovering, many are left with damaging and progressive mental and physical consequences that can range from minimal brain dysfunction to severe intellectual disorders, personality disorders, seizures, paralysis and cranial nerve dysfunction. Many patients with severe consequences die within a few years. "
No EEE vaccine.
While the state has already carried out aerial spraying to control mosquitoes to combat the spread, DPH spokesman Ann Scales said the department does not reduce its critical and high-risk labels for cities and towns even
"The reason is that while air interventions are expected to help reduce the risk, they will not eliminate it and this also serves as a reminder
Officials urge the public to avoid being outdoors at night during peak mosquitoes, use insects and wear long-required clothing, among other precautions.