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EEE Found in Belchertown Horse, Threat Level Raised

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BELCHERTOWN, Mass. (WGGB) — The state’s Department of Public Health has announced that a horse in Belchertown has been infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis, or EEE.

The horse, which is stabled in Belchertown, is the second horse to become infected with EEE in the last two years.

Because of the discovery, the state has raised the threat level for EEE to ‘Critical‘ for Belchertown and ‘Moderate‘ for Granby, Ludlow, New Salem, Palmer, Pelham, and Ware.

Anne Roache, spokesperson for the Department of Public Health, says that the agency urges communities that are labeled as ‘Critical‘ to cancel evening outdoors activities and events for the rest of the mosquito season.

“Today’s finding significantly raises our concern for the area. It’s important that people in high risk areas protect themselves from getting bitten by mosquitoes,” says Dr. Catherine Brown, the state’s Public Health Veterinarian

Because of the increased threat level we went to the Belchertown Wednesday night to check out how this is impacting the community.  In our journey we discovered that the fun on the field has gotten a new start time because of it.

Mike Strickland manages the town’s Flag Football program and the Youth Football League and he says they’re ready to adjust.

“We can just move from our last time bracket Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as far as tackle football, we just shorten practices up a little bit.  The kids have to work with it,” he explains.

Even before the sun went down though the kids on and off the field were getting a bug spray coating.

“Every parent worries about their child’s well-being and I do feel the town takes good precautions and (is) taking care of us,” explains Belchertown resident, Heather Ward.

It’s not just the sporting events that are stocking up on the bug spray though, it’s restaurants like McCarthy’s Pub, which want people to still enjoy their patio.

The staff there their putting on some bug spray and lighting citronella candles.

State health officials will continue to monitor and work with local communities like Belchertown to see if there are any changes.  But the warning to limit night-time activities carries on until the mosquitoes die off.

“Usually you wanna make sure that it’s the second hard frost just because sometimes the mosquito population can you know survive the first frost,” notes the Belchertown Health Director , Judy Metcalf.

Two months of changes for these leagues aren’t going to spoil the games though.

Wednesday’s report that EEE was found in a Belchertown horse, comes on the heels of an announcement Tuesday that samples collected last week fround West Nile infected mosquitoes in Northampton and EEE infected mosquitoes in Amherst.

Brown adds, “DPH is working closely with several towns in the area to trap and test mosquitoes and we will use that information to help people understand the risk.”

There have been no human cases of EEE or West Nile so far this year.

The state offers these tips to try and avoid an mosquito-borne illness:

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. Owners should also speak with their veterinarian about mosquito repellents approved for use in animals and vaccinations to prevent WNV and EEE. 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 2013, can be found on the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page or by calling the DPH Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.


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