By Chris Maza
LONGMEADOW – In light of a recently reported case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Hampden County, Longmeadow officials are taking precautions.
A 70-year-old woman from Hampden County became the 12th human case of EEE in the state, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced on Sept. 26. As a result, Longmeadow was among several communities considered at high risk.
“Although mosquito populations are declining, the weather is keeping them active,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown. “We continue to emphasize the need for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”
The update from the DPH came just hours after Longmeadow Health Director Beverly Hirschorn the Longmeadow News that there had been no status update in the wake of the EEE-related death of a Hampden County man that was recently confirmed by the DPH.
Longmeadow Superintendent of Schools M. Martin O’Shea did not respond to a request for comment, however a notification was emailed to parents of students stating, “Please be assured that LPS administrators have been in close contact with the Longmeadow Health Director and other town officials as we monitor and respond to EEE. Given that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has reclassified Longmeadow as being at high risk for EEE, LHS will restrict games and practices to pre-dusk hours until further notice … Additional information and precautions can be found on the Longmeadow Board of Health webpage.”
Longmeadow is one of 53 communities in the commonwealth now classified high risk. The virus that causes EEE is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. The first symptoms of EEE are fever – often 103 to 106 degrees – stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy. These symptoms show up three to ten days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Inflammation and swelling of the brain, called encephalitis, is the most dangerous and frequent serious complication. The disease gets worse quickly and some patients may go into a coma within a week. There is no treatment and approximately half of those diagnosed die due to infection while many others become permanently disabled.
Residents are advised to avoid being outside between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active; wear long sleeves and pants as well as socks; utilize insect repellants with DEET, permethrin, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus; repair holes in screens and ensure doors and windows close securely to keep mosquitoes out of your house; and remove standing water where mosquitoes could breed.
For more information on EEE, visit www.mass.gov/guides/eee-in-massachusetts.