Sen. Sal DiDomenico and his colleagues in the Massachusetts State Senate have passed legislation that will help protect residents from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a mosquito-borne arbovirus that is rare, but can be fatal. The legislation comes as the state prepares for what is expected to be another active season for mosquitos across the state.
“Mosquito season has already begun, which is why my colleagues in the Senate and I felt it was critical we take preventative measures now to safeguard our residents from EEE and its dangerous effects,” said Sen. DiDomenico. “This bill will establish a comprehensive and coordinated approach to controlling mosquitos, and I am confident that these actions will not only help to protect public health, but also ensure environmental protection.”
Last year, Massachusetts saw a resurgence of EEE, with more than two hundred communities designated as moderate to critical risk by the Department of Public Health (DPH). The virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito and can impact humans of any age as well as animals. Massachusetts typically experiences outbreaks every 10-20 years, and the outbreak can last for two to three years. In late September 2019, the DPH confirmed three people died due to EEE. Prior to 2019, the most recent outbreak, according to state health officials, began in 2010.
The bill authorizes the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board (SRMCB) to take actions to reduce the mosquito population if the Department of Public Health determines there may be an elevated risk of EEE.
These actions include public education, surveillance of the mosquito population, elimination of standing water and application of larvicides that safely prevent mosquitoes from becoming adults. The SRMCB would also be authorized to conduct aerial pesticide spraying, subject to notifying the public and putting in place procedural safeguards.. Certain landowners, such as owners of organic farms, may apply to opt-out of spraying, and a municipality may opt-out of spraying if the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs approves an alternative mosquito management plan provided by the municipality. The bill also creates a Mosquito Control for the 21st Century Task Force to recommend reforms to modernize and improve the state’s mosquito control system.
The bill now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.