Woman Dies From Rare Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus, Three Others Sickened in State

August 26, 2019 Updated: August 26, 2019

A Massachusetts woman died from the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus over the weekend and three others in the state have the sickness.

Family members said that Laurie Sylvia died after contracting the virus.

Daughter Jen Sylvia wrote on Facebook: “Today I had to say goodbye to my best friend. She was such a beautiful soul. I don’t know where to go from here. I just don’t understand how such a beautiful person could be taken from me so soon. I wasn’t done.”

Laurie Sylvia, who was a real estate agent and a Fairhaven resident, was the wife of Teamsters Local 59 President Robert Sylvia Jr. The union said on Saturday, Aug. 24 that Sylvia’s “condition has deteriorated and regrettably the family is preparing for the worst.” On Sunday, the union added: “It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we inform you Laurie Sylvia has passed away. All of us here at Teamsters Local 59 extend our sincere and deepest sympathies to Bob and his family.”

Today I had to say goodbye to my best friend. My mum was my favorite person in the world. She brought light and joy to…

تم النشر بواسطة ‏‎Jen Sylvia‎‏ في الأحد، ٢٥ أغسطس ٢٠١٩

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said in a statement Sunday night that laboratory tests confirmed the fourth human case of the virus in the state this year. The statement identified the woman as a female over the age of 50 living in southern Bristol County but did not state her name.

“EEE virus has been found in 333 mosquito samples this year, many of them from species of mosquitoes capable of spreading the virus to people,” the agency stated.

The Fairhaven Police Department said in a statement: “Official word has not yet been received from the state confirming EEE but please use caution when you’re out and about. Our thoughts are with this Fairhaven family.”

Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a rare virus that causes brain infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Approximately 30 percent of people with EEE die and many survivors have ongoing neurologic problems.

Symptoms typically appear after four to 10 days and include chills, fever, and malaise. The illness can last one to two weeks. Death usually happens two to 10 days after symptoms start appearing “but can occur much later,” the agency stated.

“Of those who recover, many are left with disabling and progressive mental and physical sequelae, which can range from minimal brain dysfunction to severe intellectual impairment, personality disorders, seizures, paralysis, and cranial nerve dysfunction. Many patients with severe sequelae die within a few years.”

The Eastern equine encephalitis virus cases reported by state in the United States from 2009 through 2018. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The virus is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitos. A high of 15 cases were reported in the United States in 2012, with a drop to five cases in 2017 and six cases in 2018. Florida had 13 cases between 2009 and 2018; Massachusetts had the second-highest number with 10.

The virus was detected in nearby Rhode Island for the first time this year on Aug. 6.

The town of Fairhaven said on its website earlier this month that there would be spraying for mosquitos in the southeastern part of the state starting on Aug. 21 and continuing for several nights.

“It remains critically important for people in communities at critical, high and moderate risk for EEE to continue to take personal precautions against mosquito bites. These steps include using EPA-approved bug spray, wearing long sleeves and pants outdoors to reduce exposed skin, and canceling outdoor activities in the hours from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active,” it stated.

Repellants that include DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus should be used, except on infants under two months old and only concentrations of 30 percent or less on children older than three. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three, the town of Fairhaven said in its website.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
RECOMMENDED