AMESBURY — A 63-year-old mother of four and grandmother of 12 who spent her retirement years from nursing with her husband on Lake Attitash has become the latest victim of Eastern equine encephalitis in the state this year.
Charlene Manseau, of Lake Attitash Road, died Saturday from what her family said were complications from the mosquito-borne disease.
Manseau, who had been treated for two bouts of cancer in recent years, was hospitalized on Monday, Sept. 10, at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston and was diagnosed with EEE during the course of her treatment.
In a statement received last night, her family said, “We understand that because of her recent bout with cancer and subsequent treatments, she was immunosuppressed, which may have been a factor in the severity of her illness.”
Manseau was in remission from non-Hodgkins lymphoma and undergoing bi-monthly Rituxan treatments in hopes of extending the length of remission, her family said.
The state Department of Public Health last week confirmed an Amesbury woman was the sixth — and most recent — Massachusetts resident to be diagnosed with EEE this season.
The serious, sometimes fatal illness is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. While EEE can infect people of all ages, people under age 15 and over age 50 are at greatest risk, state officials say.
“It was made clear to us that EEE is only communicable through an infected mosquito. We also understand that not everyone bitten by an infected mosquito develops severe symptoms,” the family added in its statement.
Yesterday, Jack Morris, the city’s health agent, said he had not been notified of a EEE death in Amesbury. Mayor Thatcher Kezer said he could not comment on the news. And a spokeswoman for the DPH said she had no further information beyond the Amesbury EEE victim had been hospitalized.
But news of Manseau’s illness spread through the tight-knit Lake Attitash community. After spending more than 30 years in Newburyport, Manseau and her husband, a retired principal of Triton Regional High School in Byfield, moved in 2005 to the Amesbury side of the lake, which straddles Merrimac.
Manseau worked for 40 years as a registered nurse, including in the surgical day care unit at Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport.
But in addition to her professional career, she was a devoted mother and grandmother and an active member of Hope Community Church in Newburyport, where the church community was mourning her loss yesterday.
She also cherished her family, and photos and messages from her children and grandchildren filled her Facebook page.
So far this year, six Massachusetts residents have been diagnosed with EEE while 16 people have contracted West Nile virus, a less serious disease also carried by mosquitoes. A man in his 70s from Georgetown was also diagnosed with EEE last week.
Earlier this month, a man in his 70s from Worcester County was the state’s first reported EEE fatality this year, according to the DPH.
Following the two EEE cases in the region last week, the threat level for the disease was raised to critical in Amesbury, Merrimac and Haverhill. Georgetown was already considered at critical level due to the death of a horse from EEE last month.
As a result of the EEE outbreak, area communities have canceled organized outdoor activities taking place in the area from as early as 3 p.m. to as late as 9 a.m., until further notice. Northeast Mosquito Control has been vigorously spraying the region, having targeted Amesbury, Newburyport, Georgetown, Salisbury and other communities in recent weeks.
More information, including all WNV and EEE positive results from 2012, can be found at www.mass.gov/dph/wnv or by calling the DPH Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800. Area residents with questions about mosquitoes or how to control them can contact their local health departments or Jack Card, director of the Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control and Wetlands Management District, at 978-463-6630.