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Eastern Equine Encephalitis Spreading Its Tentacles in Massachusetts

Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) is spreading fast in Massachusetts, resulting in calls mosquito spraying, though environmentalists seem to have reservations .

EEE is a potentially deadly encephalitis. Though the incidence is rising, authorities are reluctant to go in for wholesale because of objections from environmentalists.

Nine regional control projects in the state spray for mosquitoes. Most of the time, the Norfolk County Mosquito Control Project, which uses the aerosol pesticide Anvil, sprays only if a homeowner requests it, according to assistant director David Lawson.

Plymouth County has a similar program. But during a health threat, the project sprays regardless of whether calls come in, Lawson said.

Although environmental advocates have protested the pesticide spraying -- saying the chemical could wreak havoc on aquatic ecosystems and taint organic farms -- state officials have argued that it's worth it to protect residents from the EEE virus, which has killed six people in Massachusetts over the past three years.

"I'm still not one-tenth of the person I used to be," said Colleen Phillips, whose doctor confirmed she contracted encephalitis from a mosquito. "I know mosquito spraying isn't 100 percent effective, but it could prevent something. I would hate to see this happen to someone else."

Phillips says she is living proof that the spraying is worth it.

A former longtime Quincy resident, Phillips moved with her husband last June to Wareham, where she spent her free time gardening and enjoying the beach down the street from her house. Toward the end of the summer, she started to feel tired and dizzy, but said she dismissed it as the summer flu.

A week after those first symptoms appeared, her husband found her collapsed on the floor, and he immediately called 911. At first, doctors were unable to pinpoint what was wrong, said her daughter, Kathy, of Weymouth. Phillips
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