EEE: Lower impact than expected in 2020

DEDHAM, Mass. — On a muggy Thursday afternoon, Shawn Solomon took his two children out for a hike at Wilson Mountain Reservation. To their surprise, the bugs were not biting.

“This was the best all year,” said Solomon of Bridgewater.

Eric Ciering visits the trails here daily.

“June (and) July were pretty bad, but starting in August, they started withering away,” said Ciering talking about mosquitoes.

2020 was supposed to be year two of a three-year cycle of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a potentially deadly disease that surfaces, then generally disappears for seven years, according to state health officials in 2019.

>> EEE survivor who spent weeks in coma warns of mosquito-borne disease

Last year, was the worst single year for EEE infections in decades in Massachusetts. Twelve people were confirmed to have the disease, half of them died, according to the Department of Public Health Records.

“That is Ebola virus territory,” said Sam Telford, Professor of Infectious Disease and Global Health at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Telford believes the unseasonably dry, hot summer erased breeding areas for mosquitoes.

There have also been cooler than normal nights in recent weeks and mosquitoes are not active when the temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, said Telford.

“We are not out of the woods yet for mosquito season,” Telford explained.

Dry and hot conditions are ideal for West Nile Virus, Telford said. West Nile Virus is another disease carried by mosquitoes that has been found in seven people, so far this year, according to DPH records.

“Peak transmission of EEE continued until the middle of August and peak transmission of WNV will continue at least through September,” said Dr. Catherine Brown, State Epidemiologist. “People are urged to continue to use mosquito repellent and long sleeves/pants to reduce mosquito bites and to schedule outdoor activity to avoid the hours between dusk and dawn in the areas at highest risk for EEE. Some risk for mosquito-borne disease will continue until the first hard frost.”

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