South Hadley Area at High Risk for EEE; College Curbs Activities

Monday, September 10, 2012 - 19:45

Update on EEE, West Nile Virus

October 14, 2012

The ban on activities between dusk and dawn is now lifted.

September 14, 2012

After conferring with state health officials and other members of the Five College Consortium, Mount Holyoke is canceling all outdoor campus activities planned for the hours between dusk and dawn as a precautionary protective measure against the mosquito-borne illnesses Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus.

South Hadley is among the communities rated by the Department of Public Health (DPH) to be at high risk for these illnesses, meaning “multiple cases of human disease are considered very likely.” EEE is a rare viral infection that is dangerous and often fatal to humans, spread through infected mosquito bites; the mosquitoes that carry the viruses are nocturnal. DPH has confirmed three cases of human EEE infection across the state this year; officials have also reported 13 cases of West Nile virus in Massachusetts.

The dusk-to-dawn ban on outside events is in accordance with recommendations from the state Department of Public Health for towns designated at high or critical risk for EEE. This recommendation will remain in effect until the first hard frost of the season. Amherst and Hampshire Colleges and the University of Massachusetts have also cancelled outdoor evening activities, as has the town of Amherst.

College athletic officials are rescheduling team activities to comply with this ban. Student organizations and residence halls should also reschedule outdoor activities to daylight hours until further notice.

“Dawn-to-dusk” is currently from 6:45 pm until 6 am, but be aware that dusk will come earlier each night as we move into autumn. In weeks ahead, activities should conclude by 6 p.m. for optimum safety.

Members of the community are urged to curtail time spent outdoors after dusk whenever possible. If you must be outside, the DPH strongly recommends you take the following precautions to protect your health:

  • Wear mosquito repellent when outdoors, especially during peak mosquito hours from dusk to dawn;
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants when outdoors between dusk and dawn;
  • Always use window screens when windows are open, and promptly report damaged or torn window and door screens to Facilities Management;
  • Avoid outside areas with standing water and/or obvious mosquito activity.

The Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services recommends the use of insect repellents containing DEET, permethrin, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535, to be used according to the instructions on the product label.

For additional information, see the DPH website.

 

September 10, 2012

South Hadley Area at High Risk for Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

Students and other members of the Mount Holyoke community are being encouraged to take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites after the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) determined the risk level is high for contracting Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) or the West Nile Virus (WNV) in South Hadley and surrounding communities.

The DPH considers a community to be at high risk when “multiple cases of human disease are considered very likely.” Students were sent an email message on Saturday, September 8 by Dean of the College Cerri Banks, in which she urged them to take extra protective measures to avoid exposure to mosquitoes.

“Cover up exposed skin, and avoid outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are at their most active,” Banks wrote, citing DPH recommendations.

While EEE and WNV are both spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, EEE is a far more serious illness. Its first symptoms are fever (often 103 to 106 degrees), stiff neck, and headache, which usually show up three to ten days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. There have been three documented cases of EEE in Massachusetts this year.

In contrast, approximately 80 percent of people who contract West Nile Virus have no symptoms; others may experience a fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and swollen lymph glands. Less than one percent of those infected will develop a severe illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis.

The DPH recommends a variety of precautionary steps in communities rated at high risk for mosquito-born illnesses. Based on those recommendations, students and other members of the Mount Holyoke community should:

  • Wear mosquito repellent when outdoors, especially during peak mosquito hours (from dusk to dawn);
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants when outdoors, especially during peak mosquito hours;
  • Always use window screens when windows are open, and promptly report damaged or torn window and door screens to Facilities Management;
  • Avoid outside areas with standing water and/or obvious mosquito activity;
  • Avoid overnight camping near freshwater swamps where mosquito activity is likely;
  • Watch for further updates from the College.

The Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services recommends the use of insect repellents containing DEET, permethrin, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535, to be used according to the instructions on the product label.

The DPH will provide updated information for the area on its website.