The Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus was detected for the very first time in mosquitoes in Plymouth County, Massachusetts this year, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) on July 18.

The Hinton State Laboratory Institute detected the EEE virus in a testing of mosquito samples collected July 15 in the Bridgewater town.

“EEE is an annual occurrence in Massachusetts,” Dr. Catherine Brown, DPH State Public Health Veterinarian, says in a statement. “These were mammal-biting mosquitoes, and the findings should remind residents of the area to cover up and apply insect repellent when outdoors.”

The institute’s finding raises Bridgewater’s risk level to moderate. Basing on EEE activity last year, already at moderate risk level are the adjacent towns of Easton, Middleborough, Raynham and West Bridgewater.

So far there were no human cases of EEE or West Nile virus (WNV) this year, according to DPH. There was one case, however, last year when a resident of Massachusetts acquired EEE.

The DPH reminds that the public has a significant role to play in terms of protecting themselves or their loved ones against the EEE virus.

First is through the use of insect repellent when their outdoors. Second is awareness of peak mosquito hours, which are from dusk to dawn. Third is the choice of clothing to minimize the risk of mosquito bites, such as long pants, long sleeves and socks when one is outside.

The public can also mosquito-proof their homes, the DPH recommends. This is by draining standing water in containers, flowerpots, buckets, tires or wading pools that become breeding grounds of mosquitoes. They can also install screens or repair those broken ones.

Animals should also be protected through the use of mosquito repellents specifically intended for them or through vaccinations as advised by their veterinarian. The DPH suggests that animal owners should call them or DAR, Division of Animal Health in cases when their animals are diagnosed with EEE or WNV.

The EEE virus is normally spread to humans with a bite of a mosquito infected by the virus. It is a serious health disease that affects all ages. In extreme cases, it can bring about death because there’s no treatment for the virus. Patients who survive the infection often become permanently disabled, and few people completely recover. Initial symptoms of the infection are stiff neck, fever, lack of energy and headache.

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