Rochester, Marion hit ‘critical risk’ for EEE
A Rochester man has contracted Eastern Equine Encephalitis, which has placed some area towns, including Rochester and Marion at “critical risk “ for human exposure to the virus and impacted many town events.
Mattapoisett Town Administrator Michael Gagne confirmed the diagnosis at an Aug. 13 meeting, and said the man is in a coma. This is the first human case of the virus in Massachusetts since 2013.
The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. It is rare but serious, and can lead to the swelling of the brain and death. Those under the age of 15 and over the age of 50 are most at risk.
As of Wednesday, Aug. 14 the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services has listed the towns and cities of Marion, Rochester, Wareham, New Bedford, Acushnet, Lakeville, Freetown, Middleborough, and Carver at critical risk for EEE. A critical risk classification means that a person in the area has been infected. To prevent infections in a critical risk area, residents should cancel or reschedule outdoor activities to avoid peak mosquito hours (dusk to dawn).
Mattapoisett and Fairhaven remain at high risk for the EEE virus. This means that conditions likely to lead to infection are occurring in the area. Under these conditions, residents should adjust outdoor activity to avoid peak mosquito hours, and avoid outdoor camping, especially near freshwater swamps where EEE activity is most likely.
The Mattapoisett Board of Health said that although a person in the county is an indicator of the “critical” stage, Mattapoisett remains at the “high risk” stage because the number of mosquitoes that have been detected with EEE are fewer than in Marion and Rochester.
As of Wednesday, Aug. 14 Marion had 15 mosquitoes that tested positive for the disease, Rochester had 9 and Mattapoisett had 3.
All three Boards of Health advise residents to use mosquito repellent when outside, and wear long sleeves and pants, to prevent mosquito bites.
Residents should also drain standing water from containers like buckets and tires, as these provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Woody Hartley, of the Rochester Board of Selectmen, apologized for the communication delay in his town at an Aug. 12 meeting.
“Communication wasn’t as good as it could have been,” he said, adding that he planned to work with the Board of Health and safety committee to see “what we can do better next time.”
Plymouth County began aerial spraying on Aug. 8 to reduce human risk and continued spraying through Sunday, Aug. 11. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will now conduct a second round of testing to see where mosquitoes are most impacted and follow up with a second round of spraying. The dates for that spraying are still to be determined. For a map of areas that were sprayed in the first round, visit: https://massnrc.org/spray-map/
All three towns are now closing all town beaches, parks, and events on town property after dusk due to the risk of EEE. This ban will likely last until the first frosts in November kill off most of the mosquitoes.
This ban has impacted a number of activities across the tri-town. The Rochester Country Fair suffered a significant setback in the number of events and funds that it took in, since it had to cancel some of its most popular evening events and could not hold the fair Thursday and Friday.
The Marion Town Band has moved its concerts to Sippican School for the rest of its season, to avoid concertgoers being outside after dusk.
The Marion Town Party, however, might be the hardest hit, after it was entirely cancelled due to the risk of mosquitoes after dark. Organizers said they considered moving the party’s hours earlier, but realized that the party does not work as well if it is held earlier.
The Marion Harbormaster’s office also planned to host a Bird Island Lighthouse fundraiser outside, but had to move it to the Marion Music Hall due to the town land closures.
The increased risk after dusk will also likely impact school and youth athletic programs in the tri-town area, though Sippican Week was unable to reach athletic coordinators to determine how they plan to address the risk.
Only 5 to 10 cases of EEE are reported each year in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control
Approximately one-third of those infected with EEE die, while survivors typically develop mild-to-severe brain damage.
There is no specific treatment for EEE. According to the CDC, no anti-viral drug to treat EEE has been discovered, and antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Those who are diagnosed with EEE are typically treated to manage symptoms, and can be hospitalized or receive respirator support, IV fluids, and treatments to prevent other infections.