State health officials are now keeping an eye on nearly two dozen Massachusetts communities that are considered high risk for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) after mosquitos in those areas tested positive.
The risk for the rare and deadly disease has town officials in Plymouth County making changes to protect their citizens, while state officials will be spraying parts of southeastern Massachusetts on Thursday.
Bridgewater is one of the communities at high risk for EEE. To protect citizens, town officials announced public fields will be closed from dusk until dawn and summer rec leagues during those times will also be halted.
"There are a fair amount of recreational activities in Bridgewater, whether it be baseball, the leagues, sometimes basketball tournaments, sometimes the golf courses will be open later after dusk hours, so all of those things we’re asking people to avoid," said Bridgewater town manager Michael Dutton.
Earlier this summer, state health officials listed several communities in Bristol County as high risk for the deadly EEE virus after mosquitoes there tested positive.
Twenty-two communities are now considered high risk.
"We haven’t gotten reports in Bridgewater but we make the assumption if we’re surrounded by it then it exists in Bridgewater," said Dutton.
Dutton is urging residents to use mosquito repellant in the evening and keep children indoors.
Just before sunset on Tuesday on Lake Nippenicket in Bridgewater, Tim Poh sprayed himself with a generous round of mosquito repellent.
"I’m about to spray myself right now," said Poh, a Bridgewater resident, before casting his fishing line into the water, aware of the threat that may be buzzing on the water’s edge.
"A lot of water this year, so mosquitoes are growing up everywhere," Poh said.
Bridgewater is among 22 others in Plymouth and Bristol Counties being called "high risk" by the state health department. They will be the target of aerial spraying on Thursday, sometime after dusk.
“Although aerial spray is necessary to reduce risk, it will not eliminate it," said Dr. Catherine Brown, state epidemiologist at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The state is recommending people in these high risk areas to avoid outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, when infected mosquitoes are most likely to spread EEE.
State officials say three different swamp system in the communities of concern serve as breeding grounds for the infected mosquitoes.
The last year the state saw significant EEE activity was back in 2012.
"You gotta be safe, but you can't stop living your life. Gotta go out, gotta have fun. It’s the end of summer, might as well enjoy it," said Daniel Mercado of Bridgewater.
State health officials say no human or animal cases of EEE have been detected so far.
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