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Protecting against Mosquito-Borne Illnesses, One Community is Set to Spray

mosquitoEAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WGGB) — As it continues to warm up it won’t be long before the bugs are out in full force.

Mosquitoes in particular can be a problem not just because they bite, but because they can also carry diseases.

Right now in Western Mass. mosquitoes are a distant memory from last summer.  But that doesn’t mean they’re not around here, they are.

They’re just not ready yet to feed on us.

Professor Stephen Rich studies them at UMass Amherst.  He says right now, they’re in the aquatic stage which buys us a little time before the biting stage.

“They don’t start to get active until August, so we’re a little bit ahead of the season,” explains Rich.

Still, East Longmeadow is trying to stay ahead of the pests as they have each spring for the past 15 years.

The city plans on spraying 1000 acres of wetland and the idea is to kill the larvae before they have a chance to grow up.

Select Board Member, Angela Thorpe says, “That’s to keep the mosquito populations down and we’re just concerned about any mosquito-borne diseases like the West Nile or the triple E and we just want to make sure we have a jump on that and keep our residents safe in East Longmeadow.”

Triple E or Eastern Equine Encephalitis is considered one of the deadliest mosquito-borne diseases in the U.S.

Not far behind is West Nile Virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, last year there were 30 cases in Massachusetts, 4 here in Western Mass. and one confirmed death in Worcester County.

“It’s not as big a risk as some of the other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, like Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus.  Generally if your healthy and have an intact immune system it’s not a big problem for people,” says Rich.

But it can be a problem for the very young and very old. Which is why the spraying, at a cost of $13,000, was approved and announced by the East Longmeadow Board of Health.

“The results have been positive. We haven’t had an outbreak of triple E if you’re judging it in that manner. We haven’t had triple E or the West Nile,” adds Thorpe.

And on a much more basic level the program may also help take the sting out of one of summer’s biggest pests.

The mosquito spray will be applied by helicopter on Wednesday May 1st from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. weather permitting.

East Longmeadow officials say the chemical used is not toxic to mammals and no precautions have to be taken by people or pet owners.

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