By Beth David, Editor
A Fairhaven woman was the fourth person in Massachusetts to contract Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and is the first to die from the disease this year. Laurie Sylvia, a Sconticut Neck resident, died on Sunday, 8/25, after battling the virus for a couple of weeks. She was a real estate agent who worked at Pelletier Realty.
The first public acknowledgement of the Fairhaven EEE case and her identity came from a Facebook post from the Teamsters Local 59 on Saturday.
“It pains us to inform you that Laurie Sylvia, the wife of Teamsters Local 59 President Robert Sylvia, Jr has been stricken with the EEE Virus,” reads the post. “For the last several days we were hopeful that with the best possible care from the Doctors and Staff at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, she would be able to recover. We have just learned that this will not be the case. Laurie’s condition has deteriorated and regrettably the Family is now preparing for the worst.”
The town of Fairhaven Board of Health issued a press release on Monday acknowledging the case had been confirmed by the Mass. Department of Public Health.
On Tuesday, the Selectboard issued a statement: “It is with great regret that we inform you that this latest case of EEE resulted in the death of a Fairhaven Resident, Laurie Sylvia. The Town of Fairhaven sends its sincere condolences to the friends and family of Mrs. Sylvia during this difficult period,” said Town Administrator, Mark Rees.
Ms. Sylvia’s obituary describes her as a beach lover with a “little piece of heaven” on Sandy Beach.
“Laurie would approach everyone with a smile, kindness and laughter,” reads the obituary. “She had a beautiful soul that was felt by everyone she came across. If you had the pleasure to meet her, you were instantly a friend and had a piece of her heart. If Laurie was in the room, you were sure to be laughing. She was the life of the party and meant everything to everyone. She loved her children deeply and her greatest joy was being Mimi to her grandchildren. Heaven has gained the most selfless, beautiful, genuine human being.”
Her daughter, Jen Sylvia posted on on Facebook that Laurie “brought light and joy to everyone she came across.”
“She knew how to have fun and taught me how important it was to love with all you’ve got and live life to the fullest,” wrote Jen the day of her mother’s death. “Mum, I hope you find the beach in heaven. I’ll meet you there one day.”
The rare disease is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. Approximately one-third of those afflicted died from the disease. The rest often suffer permanently from neurological impairments.
In response to the threat, the public works department has closed all parks after dusk. Almost all area towns and cities have closed parks or severly restricted activities at dusk. School departments have cancelled practices and games throughout the region.
In Fairhaven, the school department has increased spraying of school grounds with an all natural treatment.
Ms. Sylvia is survived by her husband of 40 years, four children, her parents, two sisters, a brother, and seven grandchildren. Arrangements are by Fairhaven Funeral Home. Calling hours will be Friday, 8/30, from 4–7 p.m. Funeral arrangements are private
For more information on EEE and how to protect yourself from mosquto bites, visit the Fairhaven Board of Health page on the town’s website. https://www.fairhaven-ma.gov/board-health/pages/mosquito-tick-information?fbclid=IwAR2L6G_3qp5vmYAPn6PZlYXSWecLQNfbQEbJt4baRpn3dcKisQ3_WgPaM2I
To find out about spraying in your neighborhood, call Bristol County Mosquito Control, 508-823-5253
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