The third human case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in Massachusetts was confirmed Monday in Franklin County. The patient is under the age of eighteen, and is currently hospitalized. That means the Athol-Royalston school district is taking extra measures to keep its students safe from the mosquito-bourne illness.
The EEE threat level in Athol and other towns in Franklin and Worcester counties is currently ‘critical’ according to the state department of public health. Athol-Royalston superintendent Anthony Polito says his district was mandated by the state to cancel all outdoor school events between dusk and dawn, the prime hours for mosquitos. Polito says the district’s athletic practices will be moved to the early afternoon.
“Kids will receive protection, mosquito repellant, when they’re practicing after school. Parents can opt-out of that, but if they opt-out, their kids can’t practice.”
Polito says recess and physical education classes for younger students will also be held indoors. He says the district will reevaluate the rule each week, though he doubts the ban on outdoor activity will be lifted before a hard frost.
“A hard frost pretty much will destroy the mosquito population, but it looks like that hard frost will not be imminent, that it could be two weeks, possibly three.”
State Public Health officials say EEE and other mosquito-bourne illnesses like West Nile Virus, can be avoided by wearing long sleeves and insect repellant when outdoors, and avoiding outdoor activity between dusk and dawn.