EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

May 28, 2014

Editorial: Warmer weather ramps up mosquito threat

We’ve just passed Memorial Day and already mosquitoes have arrived to suck a little joy out of warm summer evenings.

Mosquitoes are just now hatching, experts say, and with their arrival comes the threat of the illnesses they carry. In this region, the main threats are eastern equine encephalitis -- or EEE -- and West Nile virus.

Which will strike first depends on the weather, Dragon Mosquito Control owner Sarah MacGregor told reporter Dustin Luca.

“If it’s dry, the EEE mosquitoes dry up,” MacGregor said, “whereas when it’s hot and dry, the habitats where West Nile virus lives maintain the populations.”

EEE isn’t as widespread as West Nile but it is a far more serious threat. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one-third of humans who contract EEE will die while most survivors will suffer severe brain damage. While West Nile can be fatal, most people infected exhibit no symptoms at all.

While EEE incidents were down a couple of years ago, they’re on the rise again, MacGregor told our reporter.

“We’re on an upward swing,” MacGregor said. “If we do see an average or above amount of rainfall, we’ll see a fair amount of EEE.”

Data from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services shows a drop in West Nile detection last year -- out of 5,316 pools sampled all year, only 14 tested positive for the virus, down from 41 in 2012. Nine pools were in Rockingham County. There was one human case of West Nile virus last year.

EEE, however, rose from nine pools testing positive in 2012 to 24 last year, according to DHHS data. No humans tested positive for the virus in either year, but three horses did last year, including one in Derry.

In Massachusetts last year, EEE was detected in a mosquito caught in Methuen. West Nile virus was detected in Methuen, Haverhill, Groveland and several other regional communities. Outdoor activities on municipal property in several cities and towns were suspended while those communities conducted spraying campaigns.

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