NEWTON — Only days before the state health department stops testing
mosquitoes, a third case of Eastern equine encephalitis has been found
in mosquitoes on North Main Street.
Crews from Dragon Mosquito Control spent yesterday afternoon spraying a 100-acre wetland on North Main Street, where three pools of mosquitoes have tested positive for EEE since the first positive test came back in mid-September.
But those results are not a surprise, according to Beth Daly, chief of infectious disease surveillance with the state Department of Health and Human Services.
“Looking at our historical data, it’s not unexpected,” Daly said. “We don’t expect the threat of EEE and West Nile virus to diminish until the hard frost occurs.”
This comes days after mosquitoes tested positive for EEE at two locations in Danville, including Danville Elementary School.
After the announcement, Timberlane Regional School District Superintendent Earl Metzler ordered that all students remain inside during recess until the threat from EEE ends.
That order was lifted yesterday, the district announced in an AlertNow message to the Timberlane community. Parents can still keep their children indoors during recess by calling the school to let them know.
Throughout the state, the number of mosquitoes has dropped dramatically. Sarah MacGregor, owner of Dragon Mosquito Control, said traps in June would catch about 2,000 mosquitoes, while a trap today catches close to a dozen.
“By this time of year, a lot of mosquitoes could have the virus,” MacGregor said. “It’s important to avoid mosquitoes. Fortunately, right now, that’s not hard to do because there’s so few mosquitoes.”
The state will stop testing for West Nile virus and EEE on Friday due to funding cuts, Daly said. Normally, the state halts testing at the end of September anyway, but recent cases of infected animals in the state, including a horse that died of EEE in Derry, led to continued testing.
“The thing is, with mosquito testing, whether we find mosquitoes positive or not, we think there’s a risk to people until we get that hard frost,” Daly said. “The risk will be there.”
MacGregor said the public needs to be cautious.
“I would assume the worst — the mosquitoes will still be carrying it, but we won’t have any further tests to alert people,” she said. “You should take precautions to avoid bites. Even if it hasn’t been found in your town, it doesn’t mean it is not there, and I would avoid any bite by any mosquito until we get a hard freeze.”
Newton Health Officer Robert Leverone said he’s concerned about the testing ending so soon.
“The only thing favorable to us is the season change, and hopefully we’ll get that frost,” Leverone said.
It’s difficult to say when the mosquito season will end since it depends on changes in the weather, according to Leverone.
“You could have mosquitoes now to the end of November if you don’t get that frost,” Leverone said. “People really need to take care of their personal protection.”
That includes wearing long sleeves and pants when outdoors during the day and at dusk, and using an insect repellent containing DEET to ward away mosquito threats.
In addition to the positive test in Newton yesterday, a pool of mosquitoes in Newfields also tested positive for EEE.
EEE has had a tremendous impact on both towns.
In 2005, 20-year-old Kelly Labell of Newton died after contracting EEE. Two years later, another Newton resident contracted the virus. He later recovered at home.
Also in 2007, a teenage boy in Newfields was diagnosed with EEE. He is still recovering.
Newton is among several Southern New Hampshire towns where mosquitoes with EEE have been found. The others include Sandown and Derry. Mosquitoes with the West Nile virus have been trapped in Salem.
In Massachusetts, an Amesbury woman with EEE died Sept. 24 and a Georgetown man with the virus died Sept. 27.
including Haverhill, are taking precautions such as restricting outdoor
activities. A Haverhill High School football game was rescheduled because of EEE.