Public health officials in Berkshire County say they have discovered the deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus in mosquito samples for the first time ever.
"It's been tracked in Massachusetts since the 30's, mostly in
Eastern Massachusetts, but this is the first time we've found it in Western Massachusetts," Chris Horton said.
Horton is the Superintendent of Berkshire County Mosquito Control.
He says, to make matters worse, just a few weeks ago the West Nile was also detected in four different mosquito samples in Pittsfield.
That's why Horton is reminding people across the Commonwealth, and beyond, to protect themselves.
He says if you see insecticide truck outside spraying, the message abatement experts want you to hear is, "try not to get bitten for the rest of the season."
Horton said, "This has to be taken very seriously. It's a very serious disease. It's (got) a 35 percent mortality rate."
The mosquito expert says even though the dry summer has prevented the mosquito population from getting too out of control, the new test sample results are a reminder that everyone should still be very careful while spending time outdoors.
Horton said, "It's early (to make these discoveries). We found West Nile in Pittsfield on the 26th of June, ordinarily the peak times, historically, that they find it (West Nile) are the second two weeks in August, and the first week in September. So the first (discovery) for West Nile was very early, and now for the Eastern Equine Encephalitis, this is the first 'Triple E' we've ever had. It's something new for us."
Horton reminds, "This isn't a Pittsfield situation, this is a regional situation. So, I mean, we do a lot of trapping here. Pittsfield has been heavily involved in mosquito control, and so that's why we found this."
Some people who were out and about in Pittsfield on Friday say they were are already worried about the deadly viruses mosquitoes carry.
Laura Hager said, "I'm very afraid of mosquitoes. I'm wearing bug spray right now."
But others say they're more worried about the health effects of the insecticide public health officials spray.
John Hager said. "Yeah (I'm more worried about the spray), to be honest with you, yeah. At least with the spray you're going to see it, but if there's just a (slim) chance of getting a mosquito bite, that is what it is. I don't know why, but I just don't worry about it like some people do."
Horton says residents need to close windows, bring kids and pets inside, and shut off air conditioning when the spray trucks are around.
The mosquito expert also recommends avoiding outdoor activities at dawn and dusk, using bug spray with Deet, wearing long sleeves, socks and pants, and getting rid of standing near your home.
Here's what to look for in the way of symptoms where Eastern Equine Encephalitis is concerned.
According to www.mass.gov, "The first symptoms of EEE are fever (often 103º to 106ºf), stiff neck, headache, and lack of energy. These symptoms show up three to ten days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Inflammation and swelling of the brain, called Encephalitis, is the most dangerous and frequent serious complication. The disease gets worse quickly and some patients may go into a coma within a week."
Some residents we spoke with were angry that hadn't been warned by public health officials about the 'Triple E' and the spraying.
The first they had heard about it, was from FOX23 News.