Mosquito control workers are expected to spray pesticide next week in Methuen, Haverhill and North Andover after mosquitoes in all three communities tested positive for West Nile virus.
The test results were released by the state yesterday, just two days after workers sprayed the pesticide Anvil in Andover to control the town's mosquito population. Similar measures were taken in North Andover Aug. 9.
Though mosquito populations are on the rise across the region, the increased threat of West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) does not appear to be preventing outdoor plans.
"No mosquito is going to keep me from going outside," said Colin Landon as he prepared a picnic for his family at a campground inside Harold Parker State Forest in Andover yesterday.
At a nearby campsite, Steve Hicks was unpacking his SUV for an overnight stay.
"My wife's worried," said Hicks. "We have (bug) spray."
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 115 mosquito pools across the state have tested positive for West Nile virus this year, along with 22 positive tests for EEE. There have been no reported human cases of either.
West Nile virus can cause illness ranging from a mild fever to potentially deadly diseases such as encephalitis or meningitis. It was first identified in the United States in 1999.
While the majority of people who are infected experience no symptoms, others may experience fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash, according to state health officials.
Workers with the Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control District will spray pesticide in Methuen Monday between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. As of yesterday, officials said plans were still in the works to conduct spraying in Haverhill and North Andover later next week.
A truck will spray Anvil along all Methuen streets and a second pesticide will be applied to the perimeter of all city athletic fields. Methuen Public Health Director Brian LaGrasse said the spraying plan was in place before yesterday's positive test results came in.
"We've done this the past few years," said LaGrasse. "We think it's a standard precaution."
A rain date for the spraying is planned for Tuesday or Wednesday.
LaGrasse said residents won't need to take any special precautions before the spraying, other than to close the front-facing windows in their homes if they choose.
"That's just to be extra careful," said LaGrasse. "The spraying is a very ultra-low volume and it doesn't have an effect on mammals."
In Haverhill, Mayor James Fiorentini said spraying could begin as early as Tuesday night. He said a plan will be finalized Monday that will target specific areas of the city.
"The danger is not from the spraying, it's from the West Nile virus and EEE when that's around," said Fiorentini. "We want to keep our people safe. You don't want to panic about this, but you want to take reasonable precautions."
Yesterday's positive test in North Andover was the second time this month West Nile virus was detected in the town mosquito population.
Workers sprayed Anvil last week along town streets in a roughly rectangular area bordered by Haverhill to the north, the Merrimack River and Interstate 495 to the east, Route 114 to the south and routes 125 and 133 to the east.
North Andover Board of Health Chairman Thomas Trowbridge said he expects the town will approve a second spraying of the area sometime next week.
In Andover, workers on Wednesday sprayed Anvil in an area near the Lawrence and North Andover lines.
For Lizzie Landon, who camped yesterday with her husband and three sons in Harold Parker State Forest, the threat of West Nile virus only gives her extra incentive to kill mosquitoes.
"It does cross my mind," said Lizzie. "I put on bug spray and just keep a watch on the little kids. ... It doesn't keep us from going outside."
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Avoid outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, peak biting hours for mosquitoes
Use insect repellent and wear long-sleeves, long pants and socks
Drain standing water around your home
Install or repair window and door screens