Nicole Fasciano ‘22
Various communities throughout Massachusetts, including the Merrimack Valley, remain at high risk for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a mosquito-borne virus, through the first frost of the year. Merrimack College employees, faculty, and students were initially informed of the heightened risks of EEE in late August of 2019.
EEE is an extremely rare, but serious and often fatal infection that causes encephalitis or inflammation of the brain. According to Boston.com, there have been 4 confirmed fatalities and 11 total cases of EEE in Massachusetts in 2019. There are no known treatments for EEE and the majority of survivors are left with permanent neurological damage.
“The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes,” the Merrimack College Communications Office informed students. “If you are outdoors at any time and notice mosquitoes around you, take steps to avoid being bitten by moving indoors, covering up and/or wearing repellent.”
The college reiterated this guidance during the first couple weeks of the semester, and made it clear that they would be monitoring and assessing the situation as new developments arise.
The college performed a campus wide spraying to reduce the mosquito population at dusk on August 29. All students and faculty were warned to stay inside during the spraying, and the failure to comply would have resulted in a stoppage of the spraying.
As helpful as the spraying may be in preventing the further spread of the EEE virus, it does not completely eradicate mosquito populations in a given area.
Some students also questioned whether there were any risk factors associated with the spraying itself, especially given health concerns over consumer mosquito sprays containing Deet.
Merrimack College Vice President of Communications, Bethany LoMonaco addressed this concern, saying that “there are no major health concerns with the spray.” She suggested that further information about the makeup of the spray could be found from official town or state websites.
LoMonaco reminded students to continue being aware of peak mosquito hours and to wear long sleeves and bug repellent when out after dusk. She reiterated that the school is still providing bug repellent to students, updates for athletic teams whose practice hours may be affected, and those who have any questions about the EEE virus.
Overall, it is ideal to be prompt and aware of further notifications and news publications about the spread and dangers of the EEE virus. Please continue to abide by the precautions put in place by Merrimack officials for your own safety, and reach out with any potential concerns or questions. To get more information and updates regarding the EEE virus, the Town of North Andover can be reached at (9278) 688-9540), and LoMonaco can be reached at (978)837-5616. Please visit the Town of North Andover website at northandoverma.gov for additional information and further updates about EEE.