EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 6, 2012

EEE forces Danville students inside

By Doug Ireland direland@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — DANVILLE — Danville Elementary School students are being kept inside during recess after mosquitoes with Eastern equine encephalitis were trapped on school grounds.

Superintendent Earl Metzler said yesterday the threat is believed to be minimal, but the school district isn’t taking any chances.

“At this point, we are just trying to be as safe as we can possibly be,” he said. “It is just a scary proposition when you find the virus on school grounds.”

Mosquitoes carrying EEE were also found near a home on Highland Avenue, Selectmen’s Chairman Shawn O’Neil said. Mosquitoes are trapped and tested there because it’s a swampy area, he said.

O’Neil said the town received notice from the state Department of Health and Human Services about 4 p.m. Tuesday. The town immediately called the school, but employees had gone home, he said.

The principal’s office was notified Wednesday morning, O’Neil said. A call to principal Nancy Barcelos was referred to Metzler.

Metzler said he didn’t learn of the infected mosquitoes until late Thursday afternoon and immediately notified parents electronically. A notice was also posted on the school’s website.

Students were told they would not be able to play outside until further notice, Metzler said. He said some of the approximately 300 elementary schoolchildren were obviously disappointed, but were warned of the risk.

“Hopefully, the kids understand we are just trying to keep them safe,” he said.

Metzler and O’Neil said the town and school district took a proactive approach to inform the public.

O’Neil said one parent’s claim nothing was done to immediately notify families was false. Metzler said he received calls from parents praising the district for its action. The only concerns expressed were from parents who thought the children should be allowed to play outside, he said.

O’Neil said the town learned from Dragon Mosquito Control on Sept. 21 that a mosquito species known to carry EEE was found in traps. Testing proved they did not carry the virus, but on Sept. 24 precautionary spraying was scheduled for Sept. 28.

“All of this is being proactive,” he said.

The infected mosquitoes were found Sept. 27, but rain forced the postponement of spraying until Tuesday, O’Neil said. The state never announced its positive finding.

Metzler said yesterday he will consult with the town further, possibly this weekend, to see if any other measures should be taken to minimize the threat.

Danville is among several Southern New Hampshire towns where mosquitoes with EEE have been found. The others include Newton, Sandown and Derry, where a horse with the virus died two weeks ago. Mosquitoes with the West Nile virus have been trapped in Salem.

A 20-year-old Newton woman contracted EEE in 2005 and died. Another Newton resident, an unidentified man, was infected with EEE in 2007 but recovered.

In Massachusetts, an Amesbury woman with EEE died Sept. 24 and a Georgetown man with the virus died Sept. 27.

Communities, including Haverhill, are taking precautions such as restricting outdoor activities. A Haverhill High School football game was rescheduled from last night to today because of EEE.