By Marjorie Nesin
---- — ESSEX — State officials have raised the threat of mosquito-borne illness Eastern equine encephalitis in the town of Essex from “moderate” to “critical,” skipping past “high.”
The change in threat level comes after an Essex horse was diagnosed with EEE last week and confirmed late yesterday by state officials. The “critical” threat level signifies that cases of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in people could be extremely likely at the time, according to the state Department of Health.
The Essex horse is the fifth horse in the state to suffer the illness, according to the state’s Department of Public Health.
Hamilton joined Essex in moving to the “critical” ranking. Gloucester, Manchester, Ipswich, Topsfield, and Wenham threat levels have been raised from “moderate” to “high.” Rockport remains listed at a “moderate” threat level, the lowest level of threat in the state.
The state Department of Health Department urges communities designated as “high” or “critical” cancel outdoor activities in the evening until the first-hard ground frost.
As a precaution, Manchester will perform another round of ground spraying tonight from School Street to the Essex town line to kill mosquitoes. The preventative spraying will begin at 6:30 p.m., weather permitting.
Local and state health officials are urging residents in all Massachusetts communities to protect themselves by making sure all window and door screens are in good repair, by removing any standing water from their property and encouraging neighbors to do the same, and by avoiding areas of obvious mosquito activity.
Officials also urge people to use mosquito repellent, wear long sleeved shirts and pants when outside especially at peek hours between dawn and dusk, and use mosquito netting on baby carriages.
Seven humans have been diagnosed with EEE in Massachusetts, and, as of Thursday, 20 people had been diagnosed with West Nile Virus, another mosquito-borne illness, according to the state.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.