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Minimal Risk of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in Cambridge

September 25, 2019

Cambridge and other communities inside the Interstate 95/Route 128 loop remain at low risk for eastern equine encephalitis infection, according to the Sept. 25 risk map from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
"We believe that the likelihood of eastern equine encephalitis-infected mosquitoes becoming established in Cambridge is extremely low because the habitats that support most EEE-carrying mosquito species are virtually nonexistent inside the I-95/128 loop,” said Claude Jacob, chief public health officer and director of the Cambridge Public Health Department.  
The health department also recognizes that the habitat and flight range of disease-carrying mosquitoes can shift over time. The East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project, the regional mosquito control agency serving Cambridge, will continue to conduct local surveillance for mosquito species than can transmit West Nile virus, EEE, Zika virus, and other diseases.
A critical or high risk of human EEE infection currently exists in 81 Massachusetts cities and towns, including 11 communities in western Middlesex County, according to the state risk map.
Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) is a rare but serious disease caused the bite of an infected mosquito. About 4% to 5% of people infected with the EEE virus develop a severe form of the disease that typically results in encephalitis, or swelling of the brain. Of those who develop encephalitis from the EEE virus, approximately a third die. People who survive are often permanently disabled and few recover completely. To date, 11 confirmed cases of EEE have been reported among Massachusetts residents and four people have died.
A Cambridge resident was diagnosed with West Nile virus earlier this month. The Cambridge Public Health Department urges residents to take added precautions against mosquito bites after dusk in Cambridge to protect themselves from West Nile virus and to be especially vigilant when visiting parts of the state at higher risk for EEE.  
The city currently has no plans for cancelling evening activities this fall due to West Nile virus.  The risk of mosquito-borne disease in Massachusetts remains until the first hard frost.
To find out the risk of West Nile virus and EEE infection in individual Massachusetts cities and towns, see: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-arbovirus-daily-update. More information about mosquito-borne disease can be found on the state health department website at https://www.mass.gov/mosquito-borne-diseases.

This article was updated on September 26, 2019.

Suzy Feinberg, MPH
Public Information Officer

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