BOSTON (AP) – Public health officials said Monday that eastern equine encephalitis has been detected in human-biting mosquitoes for the first time this summer.

The virus, often referred to as EEE, was found in three different types of mosquitoes collected last week in the Lakeville/Middleborough area.

Chief medical officer Dr. Al DeMaria at the state Department of Public Health said the detection of human-biting bugs with EEE is unusual this time of year, but it fits with a pattern of earlier findings of the virus.

“While the risk of human disease is low,” DeMaria said, “it can be reduced by following common sense precautions to reduce exposure to mosquitoes.”

The first case of EEE in Massachusetts this year was reported in Carver earlier this month in mosquitoes that prefer to bite birds.

Last year, there were four human cases of the virus. A 5-year-old girl from Halifax and an 83-year-old man from Kingston died from the illness.

West Nile virus – also mosquito-borne – was detected in mosquitoes in Needham on June 27. Last year, an 80-year-old Fall River woman died of West Nile virus.

EEE and West Nile virus are transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. Symptoms range from mild flu-like illness to inflammation of the brain, coma and death. Health officials urge residents to reduce their risk of exposure by wearing long sleeves and long pants while outdoors, using insect repellent and draining standing water near homes.

The threat isn’t expected to pass until the first frost kills the mosquitoes.

On the Net:

AP-ES-07-31-06 1742EDT

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