BRISTOL COUNTY, Mass. — A third person has died from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a rare mosquito-borne virus that can cause a fatal brain infection.
The person was infected with the rare virus in August and was listed in critical condition by Aug. 30, the department reported.
It's the state's first human case since 2010 and the first fatality from EEE since 2007.
Health officials said they identified EEE in four mosquitos in Central Falls and Westerly, and that a horse was diagnosed with the virus in Westerly.
Two other deaths from the potentially fatal mosquito-borne illness have been reported in Michigan and Massachusetts, CNN reported. A Kalamazoo resident died on Friday and a Fairhaven woman died in August.
More than a half-dozen cases of EEE have been diagnosed this year in at least four states.
Only a handful of EEE cases are reported every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but of those cases about 30% die and survivors have ongoing neurologic problems.
(Original story): A Massachusetts woman has died of the rare, mosquito-borne virus Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), according to the family and friends of the victim.
The state's Department of Public Health would not comment on Laurie Sylvia's death but did confirm that a fourth person has been diagnosed with EEE in Massachusetts.
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.
The Fairhaven community is grieving Sylvia's death.
"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.
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.
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