A 5-year-old girl in Sudbury, Massachusetts, is in critical condition after testing positive for eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, town officials said Friday, after state health officials announced two more people contracted the rare and potentially deadly virus.
Officials in Sudbury and Northborough said that residents of their towns were the two EEE cases announced by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Friday. The department said that the people were a girl from southwestern Middlesex County and a woman in her 60s from eastern Worcester County, but couldn't give more information.
Sudbury officials said the girl was 5 and was taken to the hospital Tuesday.
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"Our wishes go out to the family of the 5-year-old that has been infected with EEE," police Chief Scott Nix said at a news conference Friday evening.
"This is a matter that we're taking extremely seriously," he added.
The town of Northborough didn't give more details about its resident who contracted EEE.
The state said Friday that seven people in total have contracted EEE this summer, and that four more communities had their risk level for EEE raised to critical: Framingham, Marlborough, Northborough, and Sudbury.
In total, 36 communities in Massachusetts face critical risk of EEE, with 42 more at high risk. State and local officials have ordered spraying to mitigate the outbreak, the first to affect humans in the state in seven years.
Three human cases of virus transmission have now been reported by state health officials in just two days. Massachusetts' fifth resident confirmed to have EEE was reported on Thursday.
The mosquito-borne virus affects the nervous system and kills about three in 10 people who contract it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"EEE is a very dangerous virus. It makes West Nile Virus look like a pussy cat," Sam Telford, infectious disease professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, told NBC10 Boston.
Telford added that the chances of contracting the virus or dying from it are small, but he credited public health awareness campaigns for limiting the number of cases.
Before the seven cases this summer — all were reported in August — there were no human cases in Massachusetts since a 2010-2012 outbreak.
The family of one woman said she died after being diagnosed, though health officials haven't confirmed that.
Both Sudbury and Northampton announced Friday that they were working on spraying to limit mosquito populations within days. Sudbury also said that all town and local public school evening activities are canceled.
That's in line with state recommendations, which say that people should avoid activities in the evening and early morning, when mosquitoes are most active. They also recommend that people use bug spray and wear long sleeves and pants outdoors.
"It's scary," said Sudbury's director of public health, Bill Murphy. "It's a very serious illness and what we want people to know is they have some control in what they can do to reduce their risk."