Family and friends of a Fairhaven woman say she died after being stricken by Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). The state's Department of Public Health did confirm that a fourth person has been diagnosed with EEE in Massachusetts, but would not comment on the woman's death.
The Department of Public Health did identify the fourth person to be diagnosed with the virus as an over 50-year-old woman from southern Bristol County. Many communities in southeastern Massachusetts are on alert for EEE.
The Fairhaven community is grieving after the loss of Laurie Sylvia.
"It's a shame that she was so young and went so quickly," said Steven Benoit, a childhood friend of Sylvia's. "You know she'll be missed."
The Teamsters Local 59 Union posted on Facebook that their president's wife was diagnosed with EEE and later died from the disease. The Town of Fairhaven and its police department shared a union post to alert the community of this dangerous outbreak after the woman's death.
"She was a very wonderful person," Benoit said. "Very nice, loving, giving to the community, giving to the neighborhood."
Sylvia's daughter also posted on Facebook on Sunday saying that her mother passed away suddenly.
While people take extra precautions, the harsh reality of this disease begins to set in for a family now mourning the loss of a mother, grandmother and wife.
"She was always quick with a joke, very funny," Benoit said. "Very funny, she loved to have fun. That's the thing and that's how she'll be remembered."
This is the fourth case of EEE diagnosed in a human in Massachusetts in 2019. There were 0 confirmed cases between 2014 and 2018.
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.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is performing aerial spraying for mosquitoes in communities considered high risk for EEE.
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