By Associated Press - Friday, July 3, 2020

BOSTON (AP) - The mosquito-borne virus eastern equine encephalitis has been detected in Massachusetts for the first time this year, the state Department of Public Health said Friday.

The agency said the virus was found in a mosquito sample collected July 1 in the town of Orange in Franklin County. It’s early in the year to be seeing the virus, officials said, and data collected in coming weeks will help show how quickly the virus is emerging.

Eastern equine encephalitis is rare but can be fatal. The virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito and can harm both humans and animals.

Last year, Massachusetts saw a resurgence of the virus, with more than 200 communities designated as moderate to critical risk by the health department. There were 12 human cases in the state in 2019, with six deaths.

No cases have been detected in humans or animals this year.

The latest finding led officials to designate the towns of Athol and Orange as moderate risk.

Health officials are urging residents to use insect repellent when outdoors and to consider avoiding outdoor activity during evening and early morning hours, when mosquito activity is at its highest.

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