A fifth person has infected the rare equine mosquito-borne oriental encephalitis, or EEE, a virus in Massachusetts amid the state's first epidemic in several years, public health officials said Thursday.
A man in his 70s from southwestern Middlesex County tested positive for the virus, according to a statement from the state Department of Public Health.
EEE risk levels have risen to critical status in Ashland, Hopedale and Milford as a result, according to DPH. Bellingham, Blackstone and Millville are already at high risk.
"As time begins to cool, it remains critical for people to take steps to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites," said Public Health Commissioner Monica Brel.
EEE, which is spread through infected mosquitoes, usually found in and around freshwater, solid swamps, carries symptoms that include swelling of the brain, coma, and fever.
"Death usually occurs 2 to 1
No EEE vaccine.
Currently, Massachusetts is testing its first outbreak of the virus in 2012. This year, DPH detected EEE in 392 mosquito samples,
Last month, a Fairhaven woman died while hospitalized. The virus was also confirmed in eight horses and one goat this summer, according to DPH.
The outbreak caused DPH to place 32 communities at critical risk level, 39 at high risk and 121 at moderate risk for EEE.
Officials continue to urge the public to take precautionary measures such as an example of applying insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved clothing and avoiding being outdoors during peak hours of mosquitoes.
According to DPH, communities conduct mosquito-sprayed trucks in trucks. carried out in parts of Bristol, Middlesex, Plymouth and Worcester last month.
"The air spraying ended for the season mainly because of evening temperatures that are too low to allow effective air application," DPH said in a statement. "Mosquito spraying does not eliminate the risk of EEE transmission and the public is asked to continue to comply with personal protection practices."