The virus Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, has been detected in mosquitoes found in Bourne.
Bourne health agent Terri A. Guarino issued a warning yesterday Thursday, August 15, announcing that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health discovered the rare but serious illness in mosquitoes collected in Bourne.
Ms. Guarino said the infected mosquitoes were collected south of the Cape Cod Canal, but could not pinpoint exactly where they came from. She said the infected mosquitoes were included in a sample of 28 that were collected on Tuesday, August 13.
Ms. Guarino added that, in response to the discovery of EEE in Bourne, Cape Cod Mosquito Control will be expanding its trapping and larvacide treatment measures in Bourne today, Friday, August 16.
EEE is spread through the bite of an infect mosquito. The state DPH warning noted that while anyone can be infected with the disease, people under the age of 15 and over the age of 50 are particularly at risk.
Symptoms of the disease include fever (often as high at 103 to 106 degrees), stiff neck, headache and lack of energy. Symptoms appear three to 10 days after the victim has been bitten. The most serious and dangerous complication from the disease is encephalitis, or swelling of the brain.
EEE gets worse very quickly, and some patients lapse into coma within a week.
The state DPH advisory noted that EEE is a very rare disease. The first case of the virus being identified in Massachusetts was in 1938, and since then there have been fewer than 100 cases. However, more than 60 percent of those cases occurred in Plymouth and Norfolk counties, the agency said.
EEE outbreaks occur in Massachusetts roughly every 10 to 20 years, and typically last 2 to 3 years. The most recent outbreak began in 2004 and lasted through 2006. During that time, there were 13 reported cases that included 6 deaths, the DPH said.
The DPH also warned that there is no treatment for EEE. About half the people in Massachusetts who were diagnosed with the disease eventually died from the infection. Few people recover completely and often, survivors become permanently disabled.
Ms. Guarino said that residents should take all precautions to avoid being bitten by a mosquito. She noted that are many ways to avoid getting bit. Those precautions include staying indoors during dawn and dusk, which are peak mosquito activity hours; wearing long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors; and using insect repellent when outdoors.
In addition, homeowners should drain any standing water and repair tears or holes in window and door screens to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside, she said. She advised homeowners also to make sure that screens are tightly attached where they are used.