Grafton schools adjusting athlete schedules over EEE concerns

Grafton schools adjusting athlete schedules over EEE concerns

Nearly forty communities across Massachusetts are considered at "critical risk" for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, commonly known as EEE.

And with schools set to begin in many towns next week, athletic directors are scrambling to adjust schedules to keep athletes from playing or practicing at night when mosquitoes are most active.

For athletes in Grafton, the problem is particularly obvious. Lake Ripple, which is a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes, wraps right around the high school.

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George Slolina, a sophomore at Grafton High who plays tackle on the football team said there's more talk of mosquitoes at home than on the field.

"My parents are just kind of worried about it, but I mean I'm just looking forward to the season,” he said.

Another student, Maxim Kogan, said there have also been talks about moving Friday night games to Saturday morning.

The potentially deadly EEE virus carried by mosquitos forced the town to cancel night activities, and schools are on the cusp of major revisions to the schedule. The prompt response comes after a person in Grafton was recently diagnosed with EEE.

Dr. Michael Hirsh, who serves as Medical Director for Worcester's health department and the Central Mass. Regional Health Alliance, said he cannot stress enough the importance of preventing exposure to mosquitoes who carry the deadly virus.

According to Hirsh, these are some ways to do that:

1. Dressing in long clothing to prevent bites
2. Deet -- spraying the repellent on yourself
3. Avoiding the outdoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active
4. Draining all standing water

Hirsh said it is rare to catch EEE, but if you do the outcome could be serious, even deadly.

"If you can rearrange your schedule without going too much out of your way I think it's a good idea,” said one parent.

James Scanon, Grafton High's Athletic Director, said football, soccer and field hockey will be affected.

"Any scheduling changes aren’t things that we necessarily like to do, but it may be something where we have to do out of an abundance of caution,” he added.

Other athletic directors in the communities at high or critical risk of EEE are still in talks to shift schedules.