METHUEN — After Haverhill had two mosquitoes test positive for the West Nile Virus, Methuen decided to take action.
It began two weeks of spraying on Aug. 25 at all school-district property, including all the playing fields.
Health Director Brian LaGrasse said the spraying will help keep the mosquito population down, but it won’t get rid of them all.
“There’s always going to be mosquitoes, there’s nothing you can do about that,” LaGrasse said. “You have to do the best you can to protect yourself.”
LaGrasse said the Health Department wants to educate the community on West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
“EEE isn’t something you’re going to just get. You can protect yourself,” LaGrasse said. “The only way you’re going to get it or West Nile Virus is if you are bitten by an infected mosquito. So, if you take the proper precautions and protect yourself, you can obviously be a lot safer and not worry about it.”
LaGrasse said the most common ways to protect yourselves is to wear bug spray with the right amount of DEET in it and to wear long sleeves and long pants when doing gardening or landscaping. You must also be aware of when the active times are for mosquitoes — dusk to dawn. Mosquitos are also in their peak season right now, which lasts from late summer to early fall.
“The spray is a great help because it will cut the season in half, and as it gets colder at night the mosquito activity will diminish,” LaGrasse said. “Technically they don’t really go away until the first deep frost, but on a cold fall night even before the frost mosquito activity is definitely decreased.
“We’re looking at these next couple of weeks as a bridge to get to that point to where the activity is decreased and exposure is obviously decreased as well.”
The city has purchased cases of bug spray to help aid the athletic teams and after-school programs, as well as educating the coaches.
“The coaches will be trained in how to apply bug spray. The kids will be participating in demonstrations of bug spray,” LaGrasse said. “The coaches will monitor it. If the coaches are out there with the kids and the kids are getting bit by mosquitoes, they should know they probably need to put on more bug spray.”
LaGrasse said that while the number of mosquitoes infected with EEE or West Nile Virus are few, he nonetheless cautions the community to be more aware and to take more precautions.
For more information visit the Web site www.ci.methuen.ma.us/Health/index.html or call the Methuen Department of Public Health at 978-983-8655).
Symptoms of EEE
(Symptoms surface 3-10 days after bitten by an infected mosquito)
* High fever 103 to 106 degrees
* Stiff neck
* Lack of energy
* Inflammation and swelling of the brain called encephalitis is the most dangerous symptom.
* The disease gets worse quickly and some patients may go into a coma within a week.
Symptoms of West Nile Virus
(Most infections do not exhibit symptoms.)
* Headache and body aches
* Skin rash
* Swollen lymph glands
(Small percentage of infections can be serious, even fatal.)
More severe infections can cause:
* High fever
* Neck stiffness
Phone numbers and resources:
Massachusetts Department of Public Health information line: 1-866-627-7968)
Methuen Department of Public Health (978-983-8655)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: www.EPA.GOV
Centers for Disease Control: www.CDC.GOV
Source: Methuen Department of Public Health