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Brookline Mosquitoes Infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis

August 17, 2006

State health officials announced on August 10 that mosquitoes collected in Brookline tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), a rare but serious disease that is spread to people by infected mosquitoes.

The infected mosquitoes were culex pipiens, a species that prefers to bite birds and small mammals, but also may bite people.  Be aware that mosquitoes in urban environments are most active in the early evening and nighttime.

The presence of EEE in Brookline mosquitoes is unusual, but not unprecedented.  Isolated samples of mosquitoes were detected in 2000 and 2001, and did not lead to any human infections.  The East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project and the Suffolk Country Mosquito Control Project will intensify their mosquito monitoring and control efforts in the area, in collaboration with the Brookline Health Department and the Boston Public Health Commission.

How Residents Can Protect Themselves
Eastern equine encephalitis has no cure, and about 30 percent of people who become infected with the EEE virus die from it.  Symptoms range from high fever, stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy to inflammation of the brain and coma.
The best way for Cambridge residents to prevent EEE and West Nile virus, another mosquito-borne disease, is to reduce their risk of getting bitten by mosquitoes.

Make your home safer:

  1. Install or repair screens.  Make sure your window and door screens are in good repair and are tightly attached.
  2. Remove standing water.  Mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water.   You can limit mosquito breeding places in your yard by emptying, covering, or treating any items that hold water.  Check rain gutters and drains.  Empty unused flower pots and buckets. Change the water in wading pools and birdbaths once a week.
  3. When it is not possible to eliminate standing water by sweeping or other methods, please call to report the location and/or address of the puddle or still water source:
    1. Private property: Cambridge Public Health Department, 617-665-3826
    2. Public property  (roads, parks):  Cambridge Dept. of Public Works, 617-349-4800
    3. Construction sites: Cambridge Inspectional Services, 617-349-6100

Protect yourself and your family

  1. Consider wearing long-sleeve shirts, loose pants, and socks if you spend time outdoors during peak mosquito biting times.  Mosquito species found in Cambridge are most active in the early evening and nighttime.
  2. If you are outdoors during peak mosquito biting times, apply a thin coat of insect repellant containing DEET or Picaridin to clothing and exposed skin. Adults and children (age two and older) should use repellant with 25% to 30% DEET.  Repellants with DEET should never be used on children under age two.
  3. Alternatives to DEET include Picaridin (a chemical repellent), oil of lemon eucalyptus (a plant-based repellent), and 2% soybean oil.  All have been found to provide good protection, though the natural oils are somewhat less effective and may need to be applied more often.
  4. Cover your baby stroller or outdoor playpen with netting.

How to report a dead bird

  1. To report a dead bird on public property, call Cambridge Animal Control, 349-4376 (days), or Cambridge Department of Public Works, 349-4800 (nights/weekends).
  2. A dead bird found on private property should be disposed of by the owner or management. Rubber gloves should be worn when handling bird carcasses.

As of mid-August, 48 samples of mosquitoes and two horses in Massachusetts had tested positive for EEE.  The vast majority of mosquito samples were collected from Plymouth and Bristol counties in southeastern Massachusetts.  On Aug. 17, state health officials announced that a 53-year-old Lakeville woman and a 23-year-old Acushnet man had been hospitalized with EEE.  Lakeville and Acushnet are both located in southeastern Massachusetts.

For more information, please call the Environmental Health Unit at the Cambridge Public Health Department, 617-665-3838.


Suzy Feinberg, MPH
Public Information Officer

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