Officials: 2020 Could Be a High-Risk Year for Mosquito-Borne EEE
The SouthCoast could be looking at another high-risk year for Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
Outbreaks of EEE usually occur every 10-20 years and typically last two to three years, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The most recent outbreak began in 2019, which saw 12 cases and six fatalities in the state.
EEE is a rare but serious illness spread by infected mosquitoes. Symptoms can include fever, stiff neck, headache and fatigue. In rare cases, the EEE virus can cause brain infections or encephalitis, resulting in death or severe neurological problems. People over the age of 50 and under the age of 15 are most at risk, according to the CDC.
In Massachusetts, the virus is most often found in mosquitoes living in and around freshwater hardwood swamps. However, mosquitoes can begin to breed and multiply in any puddle or standing water that lasts for more than four days. The DPH began testing mosquito samples throughout the state on June 15 and that testing is slated to last through October.
Officials in the town of Marion put out a special request Monday asking residents and others to take precautions against mosquitoes:
• Avoid Mosquito Bites
The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities. If you are outdoors and notice mosquitoes, take steps by moving indoors, covering up, or wearing repellent.
Clothing can help reduce mosquito bites. Although it may be difficult when it’s hot, wearing long sleeves, long pants and socks while outdoors helps keep mosquitoes away.
Consider investing in permethrin-treated clothing and gear if you spend a lot of time outdoors. Permethrin can be used to treat clothing, tents, and the like. Do not apply permethrin directly to your skin.
Apply insect repellent when you go outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET, permethrin, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30 percent or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age. Any mosquito repellent should be marked with an EPA registration number.
• Mosquito-Proof Your Home
Drain standing water, because that's where many mosquitoes lay their eggs. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools and change water in birdbaths frequently.
Install or repair window and door screens. Some mosquitoes like to come indoors. Keep them outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.
Marion is part of the Plymouth County Mosquito Control Project service area, which provides mosquito control activities to 28 communities in the region. Towns work collaboratively with the project to identify response plans and schedule aerial mosquito spraying depending upon the results of routine mosquito testing and the risk of EEE. Residents can also contact the project to have areas on their property tested for larvae and sprayed.