A Massachusetts woman has reportedly died from the eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus, an incredibly rare infection that mosquitos carry that can affect the nervous system.
The Massachusetts Department of Health announced on Sunday that the woman was the state's fourth confirmed case of the disease but declined to name her, according to WYCN. However, Fairhaven resident Robert Sylvia Jr. told the station that the victim was his wife, Laurie Sylvia, a 59-year-old realtor.
Sylvia Jr., who serves as president of a labor union in New Bedford, said his wife started feeling sick last Monday and eventually died in the hospital. Though an autopsy is being performed, he believes she may have died from the mosquito-borne virus.
The Fairhaven Health Department and Fairhaven Firefighters Association both confirmed that a resident in the town contracted EEE but did not say whether it was Sylvia.
"Fairhaven residents: Please take the EEE warnings seriously. Sadly, one of our residents has a confirmed case of EEE and is not doing well," the Fairhaven Firefighters Association wrote on Facebook on Sunday. "Our thoughts are with her family and friends.
That same day, Sylvia's daughter Jen took to Facebook to share news of her death.
"Today I had to say goodbye to my best friend," she wrote. "My mum was my favorite person in the world. She brought light and joy to everyone she came across."
"She was such a beautiful soul. I don’t know where to go from here," she added. "I just don’t understand how such a beautiful person could be taken from me so soon. I wasn’t done."
Sylvia Jr.'s union, Teamsters Local 59, also shared its condolences to his family on social media.
"Dear Members and Friends, it is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we inform you Laurie Sylvia has passed aways," the union wrote. " All of us here at Teamsters Local 59 extend our sincere and deepest sympathies to Bob and his family."
While rare, EEE can be deadly. Approximately one-third of people who carry the virus die from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can include fever, headache, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting, convulsions and coma, the agency notes.
Currently, there are 23 communities in Massachusetts at critical risk, 22 at high risk and 52 at moderate risk for the virus, WYCN reports.