Mosquito Image

An illustration of a mosquito. State health officials have discovered Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE, in mosquitoes on the Upper Cape.

Take precautions against mosquito bites, especially at dusk, Gabrielle E. Sakolsky, entomologist and assistant superintendent of the Cape Cod Mosquito Control Project, urged Falmouth residents and visitors Tuesday, August 6, after her crews found mammal-biting mosquitoes that tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis virus in recent days.

"On Friday, August 2, we found EEE-positive Culex mosquitoes, a species that breeds in man-made containers and bites birds, near Falmouth Town Hall. We also found mammal-biting and bird-biting mosquitoes that tested positive for EEE in a cedar swamp in Woods Hole the same day," Ms. Sakolsky said.

The control project is setting out additional mosquito traps this week. It is also increasing the number of crews working in Falmouth swamps, the environment where the EEE virus amplifies in birds and mosquitoes, she said.

Ms. Sakolsky said the appearance of EEE on Cape Cod is rare, with these positive samples numbering among less than 10 that she has found in Barnstable County in the past 26 years. 

"The virus is in birds, and mosquitoes bite the birds. It's moving around, likely from Bristol and Plymouth counties, where there is more EEE," she said last week after the virus was found in mosquitoes in Woods Hole.

In a press release Tuesday from Falmouth Health Agent Scott McGann, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced that, to date, no human cases have resulted from this finding is Falmouth.

"EEE is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. In Massachusetts, the virus is most often identified in mosquitoes found in and around freshwater, hardwood swamps. EEE is a very rare disease, and since the virus was first identified in Massachusetts in 1938, fewer than 100 cases have occurred.

The first symptoms of EEE are fever (often 103 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit), stiff neck, headache and lack of energy. These symptoms show up three to 10 days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Inflammation and swelling of the brain, called encephalitis, is the most dangerous and frequent serious complication.

To avoid mosquito bites, people should be aware of peak mosquito hours, from dusk to dawn; wear long sleeve, long pants and socks when outdoors; apply insect repellent when you go outdoors; and mosquito-proof your home by draining standing water and installing or repairing screens, the press release said.

The board of health Thursday, August 8, to discuss plans to address the situation.

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