, Newburyport, MA

August 21, 2013

Precautions warned as mosquito diseases spread

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY – Residents are being warned to take precautions near the Amesbury/Merrimac town line to protect themselves from mosquitoes that may be carrying the potentially fatal Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus.

Both communities have applied spray to kill mosquitoes in the general area where a mosquito infected with EEE had been found.

Merrimac Health Agent Deborah Ketchen confirmed that EEE had been detected in the north part of town and said that spraying had already been conducted around Bear Hill Road and the surrounding neighborhoods.

“It was closer to the New Hampshire border, they sprayed down near the water and the Bear Hill area,” Ketchen said. “They did do the perimeter around the whole town.”

Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer added that spraying has been conducted in the areas around Meadowbrook Pond, Tuxbury Pond and the north side of Lake Attitash, and urged that all residents exercise caution until the first hard frost of the year ends the mosquito threat.

“Everyone should take caution with mosquitoes now that the West Nile virus and EEE are in the area,” Kezer said.

Residents should avoid outdoor activities from dusk through dawn, and if out during those times, they should apply mosquito repellent. Sources of standing water, such as buckets, should be drained.

As of Monday, the DPH listed Amesbury’s EEE risk level as moderate and all surrounding communities as low, although Merrimac’s risk level could soon be elevated to moderate now that an infected mosquito has been detected in town.

West Nile virus has also been detected in Amesbury, Merrimac, Newburyport, Newbury and Rowley, though at this point there have not been any reported cases of West Nile or EEE in humans or animals locally.

EEE has been detected in a mosquito found in Merrimac near the Amesbury border, prompting officials in both communities to order spraying in the affected areas.

Ketchen said the occurrence of EEE right as kids are about to go back to school is a concern for many local communities, and the state DPH has scheduled a conference call with local boards of health Friday morning to provide an update and answer questions that community leaders might have.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, EEE is a rare but serious illness in humans and only a few cases are reported in the U.S. each year. People who contract EEE and develop encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) typically experience headaches, high fever, chills and vomiting before the illness progresses and causes disorientation, seizures or coma.

Roughly one-third of people that contract EEE die, and most survivors experience significant brain damage, the CDC said. The disease has no specific treatment, but people can reduce their risk of being infected by using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved clothing and staying indoors between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are typically most active.

Mosquito-bourne illnesses like EEE tend to occur primarily between late spring and early fall, although in recent years the highest level of activity has occurred towards the summer’s end.