By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
---- — SANDOWN — The timing couldn’t be much worse. With Old Home Days about to kick off tomorrow night, town officials learned a mosquito batch tested positive for West Nile virus.
Dragon Mosquito Control plans to spray tonight from 5:30 to 9:30 — if it doesn’t rain, company owner Sarah McGregor said.
It’s the second positive test for West Nile in Southern New Hampshire this summer. On July 26, two mosquito batches trapped in Pelham tested positive for the disease.
But, McGregor said yesterday, this is just “the tip of the iceberg.”
Last year, 41 mosquito batches tested positive for West Nile, a big spike from recent years, when positive tests never reached double digits. There was one human case last year in Manchester, where 31 of the positive mosquito batches were trapped.
For Sandown, officials are doing what they can to protect people before the celebration starts — with a ham-and-bean summer tomorrow night, all-day events Saturday and a nondenominational service at the Old Meeting House Sunday.
“We’ve just got to do as much as we can,” Town Administrator Lynne Blaisdell said yesterday.
That includes getting the word out — on the town website, local cable channel, posting the areas to be sprayed and putting up signs around town.
Sandown voters approved spending $25,500 this year for mosquito surveillance and control, Blaisdell said. That would cover surveillance, larvaciding and one adulticizing, she said.
“Obviously, if we have anything happen again, we’ll have to find the money elsewhere,” she said.
Selectmen learned of the test results Monday and authorized the emergency spraying that evening.
“It’s actually early for us. We anticipate we’ll have to do one more spraying,” Selectmen’s Chairmen Thomas Tombarello said. “Hopefully, that’s not the case. But this is smart money.”
No West Nile virus was found in Sandown last year, but one mosquito batch tested positive for Eastern equine encephalitis. Statewide, nine mosquito batches tested positive for EEE in 2012, as well as four animals. There has not been a human case of EEE here since 2009.
“We plan to continue on as usual. We’re typically not bothered by mosquitoes when it’s dry and breezy,” recreation director Deb Brown said. “We sent a notice home to parents Wednesday, advising them of the test results.”
McGregor said she expects EEE to start showing up soon.
“I am seeing a fair number of species that can carry EEE when I trap,” she said yesterday. “I know the ingredients are there.”
It’s early yet.
“I expect it’s just the beginning,” McDonald said. “The peak is usually around Labor Day, but last summer it seemed it never ended.”
In fact, she said, they were still getting positive test results in October last year.
Londonderry is hoping to avoid duplicating Sandown’s bad timing. Londonderry’s Old Home Day, a five-day affair, starts Wednesday. But McGregor said the town had contacted her yesterday and asked her to spray in advance of the extended celebration.
“We’re doing it as a precautionary measure,” said Richard Canuel, Londonderry’s health officer and building inspector.
The spraying schedule isn’t definite yet, but will likely be Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.
Many towns hold their annual events in August, McGregor said, just when the disease starts to peak.
Every year is different, she said, so predictions are difficult. But her company is trapping mosquitoes all over Rockingham County.
“Sometimes it feels like we’re looking for a needle in haystack,” she said, “trapping hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes, looking for the ones carrying the disease.”
Spraying plans in Sandown When: Today at 5:30 to 9 p.m.; in case of rain, tomorrow at the same time Where: Sandown North School, Sandown Central School. Roy Miller Recreation Center, Garvey Recreation Center, Sandlots Sports Complex Have questions about spraying? Call 734-4144 or email info@DragonMosquito.com