By Angeljean Chiaramida
---- — GEORGETOWN -- It appears that a second person from the local area has died after contracting Eastern equine encephalitis.
Georgetown health officials say an elderly man who matches the age and address of a man that the state reported had contracted the mosquito-borne illness died on Sept. 27. However, the state cannot confirm the death, because it is not required to keep track of such statistics.
The man was the first confirmed case of EEE in the northeast region of Massachusetts, the second being an Amesbury woman, Charlene Manseau. Both diagnoses were confirmed by the state Department of Health and reported to local health authorities, however the state did not release the names of the victims.
Manseau's EEE diagnosis was confirmed by family members who spoke with The Daily News. The paper contacted a member of the Georgetown man's family, but did not receive a response.
On Saturday, Sept. 24, Manseau died after contracting Eastern Equine Encephalitis. The 63-year old wife, mother, grandmother and retired nurse had battled cancer twice, and was in remission when the diagnosed with EEE. Family members said they believe cancer treatments may have suppressed her immune system, leaving her more vulnerable to EEE. Doctors say the elderly, the young and people battling illnesses are particularly vulnerable to EEE.
The Georgetown and Amesbury diagnoses of human EEE cases brought the total number of human EEE case in the state to six.
Although many in Georgetown believe the man who had been hospitalized with EEE died of the illness, the Department of Public Health hasn't called to pass on any information in that regard, according to Georgetown Health Agent Deb Rogers. Amesbury Health Agent Jack Morris, also said the DPH never contacted Amesbury to report that its EEE case resulted in a fatality.
According to state public health officials, that's usually the case.
Kevin Cranston, Director of the state Bureau of Infectious Disease, said although his agency's regulations require the medical community to report the incidence of infectious diseases like EEE when it's diagnosed, the bureau's regulations do not require the medical community to notify the agency on the "clinical outcomes" of victims. Cranston said no one is required contact state health officials when someone dies.
Cranston said the roll of public health departments especially in cases of infectious diseases is to determine the risk to the public in various cases of illness and death. As a result, the bureau has regulations that require the medical community to report the diagnoses of cases of a long list of reportable diseases, such as EEE.
But, Cranston said, there is no requirement for clinicians to get back to the bureau to report on deaths from those same diseases or to report on recovery.
"We're very concerned about the well being of these human beings," he said, "but we don't have the authority to require their outcomes be reported to the bureau."
Cranston said ultimately, all deaths through death certificates are reported to the public health department's bureau of vital statistics. From the cause of death listed on the certificates, state health officials can create the statistics that provide information about how and why residents fall ill and die. But an illness like EEE isn't always listed as the cause of death, he said. The death could be listed as heart or respiratory failure.
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, EEE is one of many reportable illnesses, meaning medical authorities must notified their state public health departments when any such designated illnesses are diagnosis. Public health authorities in each state then send their statistics on these diseases to the CDC for compilation and review.
Notifiable illnesses include many communicable diseases, including anthrax, cholera, diphtheria, plague and tuberculosis, as well as influenza, measles, polio, tetanus and rubella, along with many others.