Sudbury 5-year-old in critical condition with EEE, police say

MIDDLESEX COUNTY, Mass. — A 5-year-old girl from Sudbury is in the hospital in critical condition after being diagnosed with a deadly, mosquito-borne virus, according to police.

Two more cases of the rare and deadly virus have been discovered in the Commonwealth, the Department of Public Health announced earlier Friday.

The new cases have been found in a woman in her 60s from Northboro and the 5-year-old in Sudbury. She was taken to the hospital Tuesday morning and police say her positive test for EEE came back Friday.

The risk level for the virus, called Eastern Equine Encephalitis, is automatically raised to 'critical' by the DPH when a human case is diagnosed.

Mosquito spraying has now been scheduled for the entire town of Sudbury. The East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project will use a truck-mounted sprayer to spray areas located north of Rt. 27 on Monday and areas south on Tuesday.

>> Is mosquito spraying dangerous?

Residents in higher risk level areas have been urged to cancel or avoid all outdoor activities around dusk and dawn.

A spokesperson from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said the new cases had likely been contracted prior within the state's mosquito spraying areas prior to the spraying.

"What I really prefer people to focus on is not the symptoms but the prevention in the first place," Doctor Catherine Brown, an epidemiologist with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, said. "So, if you're taking all the appropriate steps to avoid mosquito bites, then you don't have to spend too much time worrying about symptoms."

Brown said the virus is fatal in up to 50 percent of cases and Massachusetts had seen about a 40 percent mortality rate in recent years.

Officials from the town of Sudbury said they have asked restaurants with outdoor seating not to allow people to sit outside for the time being.

This brings the total number of human cases of EEE to seven this year in Massachusetts. A man in his 70s from southwestern Middlesex County was the state's fifth case Thursday, while a South Coast woman died of the rare, mosquito-borne virus last month.

"Even though temperatures have cooled off, it is not unusual to see human EEE cases confirmed in September,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. "This is why we continue to urge the public to take seriously the threat that mosquitos can pose and to take steps to avoid being bitten."

In total, there are 36 communities now at critical risk for the EEE virus in Massachusetts. Ashland, Hopedale and Milford had their risk level raised to critical following the Middlesex man's diagnosis while Bellingham, Blackstone and Millville are now part of the high-risk area.

The Department of Public Health identified the fourth victim diagnosed with the virus as a woman over 50 from southern Bristol County. Many communities in southeastern Massachusetts are on alert for EEE.

According to the DPH, the virus has been found in 333 mosquito samples this year, many of which are able to spread the virus to humans.

The first case of EEE confirmed in a human this year came in early August when a man over 60 years old from Plymouth County was diagnosed. A second person was also diagnosed in Grafton earlier in August while a third person in Franklin County was diagnosed with EEE last week.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is performing aerial spraying for mosquitoes in communities considered high risk for EEE.

Everyone is being urged to follow the five D's of mosquito control:

  • Dusk - Avoid outdoor activity when mosquitos are most active
  • Dawn - Don't go outside when the light is changing in the sky
  • DEET - Use repellents containing it (except for infants two months or younger, per a Board of Health physician)
  • Dress - Cover exposed skin to block mosquitoes
  • Drain - Dump standing water so mosquitoes can't breed

State health officials say the peak time to get bitten by an infected mosquito extends through September here in Massachusetts. The risk continues through the first hard frost, which, on average, is more than a month away.

Related: How is the threat of EEE impacting local school sports?