(WIAT & CNN) A fourth person has died from Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE).
According to Massachusetts health officials, they confirmed the 4th death and an 11th human case of EEE has also been confirmed.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health says an Essex County man from Charlton, in his 70s, has died. The health department also confirmed the death of a Hampden County resident from the virus earlier this week, but no other information about the victim was disclosed.
Health officials have previously confirmed that a man in his 70’s from Freetown and a woman in her 50’s from Fairhaven also died from the virus.
Officials say at least 35 communities or towns in the state of Massachusetts are now at critical risk as mosquitos continue to spread the EEE virus, 40 are at high risk and 128 are at moderate risk.
Health experts say, the EEE virus particularly infects birds, often with no evidence of illness in the bird. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite infected birds. Although humans and several other types of mammals, particularly horses and llamas, can become infected, they do not spread disease.
EEE is a very rare disease. Since the virus was first identified in Massachusetts in 1938, fewer than 100 cases have occurred. Over 60% of those cases have been from Plymouth and Norfolk counties.
According to Massachusetts Officials, outbreaks of EEE usually occur in Massachusetts every 10-20 years. These outbreaks will typically last two to three years. The most recent outbreak of EEE in Massachusetts began in 2010 and included nine cases with four fatalities through 2012.
As a result, the risk level in Framingham, Marlborough, Northborough, and Sudbury has been raised to critical and the risk level in Berlin, Boylston, Hudson, Maynard, Stow, and Wayland has been raised to high.
In Massachusetts, about half of the people identified with EEE died from the infection. People who survive this disease will often be permanently disabled. Few people recover completely.
There has only been 1 EEE virus disease case reported in Alabama and that happened back in 2014.
For more information on the EEE virus and what states have reports of the virus visit: https://www.cdc.gov/easternequineencephalitis/tech/epi.html
For more information on EEE and how to prevent the spread of the virus visit: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/eee-eastern-equine-encephalitis
More information about different types of mosquitoes that can spread the virus can be found on the Mosquito-borne Diseases website.