With West Nile Virus and eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) being found in dozens of locations in Massachusetts, Melrose and nearby communities are stepping up efforts to combat the spread of either virus.
West Nile Virus Found in Melrose, Other Communities
On July 24 testing revealed West Nile Virus in mosquito pools in Medford, Malden and Melrose, according to state data. For the second consecutive year the virus was discovered in Medford and Melrose. The virus was detected in mosquitoes near the Stoneham-Melrose border last year, while the virus was discovered in mosquito pools near Ravine Road.
A week after being found in the City this year, all catch basins in Melrose were treated with a larvacide to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes in those environments.
In the event a mosquito pool tests positive for West Nile Virus or EEE, Mystic Valley Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (Region 3E consists of Stoneham, Wakefield, Melrose, Reading, Medford and Malden) will meet to discuss the proper course of action, according to Stoneham Health Agent John Fralick.
In an email to Stoneham Patch Tuesday afternoon, Fralick discussed the Board of Health's plan to limit the town's exposure to the mosquito-borne viruses.
"With the recent positive (EEE) sampling in Reading, the Stoneham Board of Health is being proactive in taking action to ensure the risk of a positive sampling in Stoneham remains low," Fralick said. "The Massachusetts Department of Public Health tests pre-designated sites in the area on a weekly basis, and as of now only one positive sample has been found in the area (Reading), next closest being Braintree."
Rather than spraying the town, Fralick said the department is using another method to combat the virus-carrying mosquitoes in the region.
"Due to the fact that spraying can lead to undue panic, as well as complaints regarding the issue, we are taking a different, more environmentally friendly approach, while still maintaining efficiency in the battle against these arboviruses," Fralick said. "Where mosquitos breed in standing water, we will be treating the catch basins for storm runoff with a tablet that makes the environment uninhabitable to them, and thereby eliminating their breeding sites, stopping the problem before it happens, while still maintaining a non-hazardous environment to other organisms."
Another reason why spraying isn't currently under consideration is the prohibitive costs.
"This (tablet) method will also serve to be a cost effective one, as there is a limited number of catch basins to be treated at three or less dollars per treatment," Fralick said. "An added bonus regarding these treatments is that they can be applied to any standing water source that may serve as a breeding site, whether it be an uncovered pool or deep puddle. Also, in a situation like this one, knowledge can be just as powerful a tool in preventing human contraction of arboviruses, therefore within 24 hours of the positive sampling (Aug. 9 in Reading), the Board of Health issued a public service announcement to its residents informing them of proper safety precautions to take when dealing with such diseases."
Treatment Tablet Benefits
Fralick was unsure if Stoneham has sprayed for the viruses in the past, but did say that "the new method serves as a lasting protection for the warm months (treatment lasts 150 days) and will be a more effective way of dealing with these problems before they happen," Fralick said. "The good news regarding yielding a positive sampling in Stoneham is that the risk for human contraction will still remain low due to the fact that Culex mosquitoes (the carriers of such viruses) tend to feed primarily on birds."
Here are some tips provided by the state's Department of Health and Human Services:
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.
For more information, including all WNV and EEE positive results from 2012, visit the Arbovirus Surveillance Information website or by call the DPH Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.