The risk level for eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, in Falmouth remains moderate and the Cape Cod Mosquito Control Program has found no mosquito samples that tested positive for the virus since last month, Falmouth Health Agent Scott McGann told the Falmouth Board of Health Monday, September 9.
That does not mean Falmouth residents and visitors should be less vigilant about preventing mosquito bites and reducing areas of standing water where mosquitoes can breed.
Until the first hard frost comes to Falmouth the risk level will remain moderate at minimum.
“We will not go below moderate; you can’t go back until the heavy frost and then we’ll restart in the spring,” Mr. McGann said.
The control program’s testing for mosquitoes has continued throughout town, primarily focused in cedar swamps where the mammal-biting mosquitoes that carry EEE are most often found, Mr. McGann said.
EEE is in mosquitoes and birds across Massachusetts. The risk remains especially high in Plymouth and Bristol counties, where human cases—including at least one death—have occurred.
Mr. McGann said he felt the recent targeted truck spraying had been effective in that it reduced the number of adult mosquitoes in Woods Hole and elsewhere in town. Negative tests do not mean there are no EEE-positive mosquitoes in town, he added.
Health board chairman Diana Molloy agreed, saying she “felt good the town decided to go ahead with the targeted spraying because we might have ended up in a critical situation.”
Mr. McGann said he spoke with Falmouth Public Schools Superintendent Lori S. Duerr about potentially rescheduling evening activities and practices for students. So far no changes have been made, though a few outdoor activities are ending a little earlier than usual, he said.
“We’re not at the severe level where you start to curtail activities. I’m following the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s playbook,” the health agent said.
Board member Benjamin Van Mooy said that, despite only about 100 deaths from EEE since the 1930s, “this disease is focused geographically and it’s focused in time, and the risk is actually much higher than the statewide statistics since the 1930s state.”
To avoid mosquito bites, people should remain indoors during peak mosquito hours, from dusk to dawn; wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors; apply EPA-approved insect repellent when outdoors; and mosquito-proof their homes by draining standing water and installing or repairing screens.
The first symptoms of EEE are fever (often 103 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit), stiff neck, headache and lack of energy. These symptoms show up three to 10 days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Inflammation and swelling of the brain, called encephalitis, is the most dangerous and frequent serious complication.