MARION — Town Administrator James McGrail and the Marion Board of Health would like to provide information and precautionary measures regarding mosquitoes as Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) season approaches.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), since the virus was first identified in Massachusetts in 1938, just over 110 cases have occurred. Outbreaks of EEE usually occur in Massachusetts every 10-20 years and these outbreaks will typically last two to three years. The DPH reports that the most recent outbreak began in 2019 and 12 cases and six fatalities occurred during the year. The 2020 season is expected to be another high-risk year.
EEE is a rare but serious illness spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms can include fever, stiff neck, headache and fatigue. While EEE can infect people of all ages, people under the age of 15 or over the age of 50 are at a particular risk for serious illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the EEE virus is a rare cause of brain infections or encephalitis. Very few human cases are reported across the U.S. each year, but EEE can be fatal or leave victims with serious complications and neurological problems.
In Massachusetts, the virus is most often identified in mosquitoes found in and around freshwater, hardwood swamps. However, mosquito breeding sites can be anywhere and mosquitoes can begin to multiply in any puddle or standing water that lasts for more than four days.
The DPH began testing mosquito samples throughout the state on June 15. Routine mosquito testing is usually conducted and reported by the DPH from June through October. The Town of Marion is part of the Plymouth County Mosquito Control Project service area, which provides mosquito control activities to 28 communities in the region. Towns work collaboratively with the Mosquito Control Project to identify response plans and schedule aerial mosquito spraying depending upon the results of routine mosquito testing and the risk of EEE. Residents can also contact the project to have areas on their property tested for larvae and sprayed.
EEE cases are most frequently seen between July and September but it is important to take precautionary measures early in the season. The Marion Board of Health recommends the following safety precautions offered by the DPH and CDC to protect yourself and your loved ones from mosquito-borne diseases, and reduce the risk of exposure to the wider community:
Avoid Mosquito Bites
- Be aware of peak mosquito hours: The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during the evening or early morning. If you are outdoors at any time and notice mosquitoes around you, take steps to avoid being bitten by moving indoors, covering up and/or wearing repellent.
- Clothing can help reduce mosquito bites: Although it may be difficult to do when it’s hot, wearing long sleeves, long pants and socks while outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin. Consider investing in permethrin-treated clothing and gear if you spend a lot of time outdoors or work outdoors. You can also use permethrin to treat clothing, but be sure to follow product instructions and do not apply permethrin directly to your skin.
- If you have children, consider purchasing mosquito netting for strollers and baby carriers.
- Apply insect repellent when you go outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET, permethrin, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus according to the instructions on the product label.
- DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30 percent or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age. Permethrin products are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear and should not be applied directly to your skin.
- Any mosquito repellent should be marked with an EPA registration number which indicates that it is safe and effective as a mosquito repellent. To learn more about using insect repellents safely and effectively, visit the EPA website.
Mosquito-Proof Your Home
- Drain standing water: Many mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or getting rid of items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools and change water in birdbaths frequently.
- Install or repair window and door screens: Some mosquitoes like to come indoors. Keep them outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.
Information about EEE and other mosquito-borne diseases, as well as historical virus activity in Massachusetts can be found on the DPH website. The DPH has also made available a printable fact sheet here and educational videos here.