Officials shared a word of warning Friday as they announced eastern equine encephalitis, known as EEE, has been detected in mosquitoes in Massachusetts for the first time this year. 

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health in a statement said EEE was found in mosquito samples taken on Tuesday in Douglas and Southbridge. 

While no animal or human cases of EEE have been detected this year, to date, officials said the positive mosquito samples have increased the risk level for the virus to “moderate” in Douglas, Dudley, Southbridge, Sturbridge, Uxbridge and Webster. 

Health officials this week described EEE as a “rare but serious and potentially fatal” disease generally spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. 

Massachusetts faced a series of EEE cases in 2019 and 2020, with 12 human cases in 2019 and five human cases in 2020, according to the Department of Public Health. Six people died due to EEE in Massachusetts in 2019. One person died due to the virus in 2020. 

There were no human cases of EEE in Massachusetts in 2021 or 2022.

“This is a late season emergence for EEE which should keep the risk level from rising too much or too quickly,” said state Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein of this week’s positive mosquito samples. “However, some risk from mosquito-borne disease will continue until the first hard frost and people should take steps to prevent mosquito bites.”

Officials have have shared tips on ways to avoid mosquito bites on the state Department of Public Health’s website.

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