State Health Officials Urge Residents in High Risk Areas to Protect Themselves Against Mosquito Bites
Use bug spray, cover up, and curtail nighttime outdoor activities
BOSTON — Officials at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health are encouraging residents in the towns of Easton, Raynham and Taunton to take specific steps to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) this summer. The move follows the recent detection of the first EEE-positive mosquitoes of the season in the area, and the subsequent raising of the threat level for mosquito-borne illness from "moderate" to "high" in those three towns.
"Yesterday’s findings tell us that Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is present in the environment, earlier in the season than we typically see," said DPH State Epidemiologist Dr. Al DeMaria. "It’s important that people in high risk areas protect themselves from getting bitten by mosquitoes by using insect repellant, covering up exposed skin, and avoiding being outdoors at times when mosquitoes are especially active."
The types of mosquitoes most likely to transmit EEE infection are likely to be out searching for food (an animal to bite) at dusk, the time period between when the sun sets and it gets completely dark.
Separately, DPH also today announced that EEE has been found in mammal-biting mosquitoes in the town of Carver. The mosquitoes were collected on July 10 and tested at the State Laboratory Institute.
There have been no human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) or EEE so far this year. There were two cases of EEE in August of last year acquired in Massachusetts; a fatal case in a Bristol
County man and an infection in a tourist from out of state. EEE activity in both 2010 and 2011 raised public concern and prompted DPH to work with a panel of experts to evaluate and enhance the state’s surveillance and response plan. EEE is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. EEE is a serious disease in all ages and can even cause death.
Personal protective measures are key to preventing mosquito bites and the illnesses they can cause. They include:
Avoid Mosquito Bites
- Apply Insect Repellent when Outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] or IR3535 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% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.
- 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 evening or early morning.
- Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites. Wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
Mosquito-Proof Your Home
- Drain Standing Water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or discarding 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 Screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.
Protect Your Animals
Animal owners should reduce potential mosquito breeding sites on their property by eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires, and wading pools — especially after heavy rains. Water troughs provide excellent mosquito breeding habitats and should be flushed out at least once a week during the summer months to reduce mosquitoes near paddock areas. Horse owners should keep horses in indoor stalls at night to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. If an animal is diagnosed with WNV or EEE, owners are required to report to DAR, Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795 and to the Department of Public Health (DPH) by calling 617-983-6800.
More information, including all WNV and EEE positive results from 2012, can be found on the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page at www.mass.gov/dph/wnv or by calling the DPH Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.
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