By Doug Ireland
---- — If it seems like there are more mosquitoes biting this summer, it’s not your imagination.
Several days of rain, followed by a week of 90-degree heat with high humidity have provided ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes, including those carrying the potentially deadly West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis, and mosquitoes carrying West Nile have already been found in several Massachusetts towns.
“It’s mosquito weather,” said Sarah MacGregor, owner of Dragon Mosquito Control. “Heat, humidity and we’ve had lots of rain — it’s perfect for mosquito production.”
Mosquitoes carrying West Nile have already been trapped in seven Massachusetts communities, including Newbury and Lynn, to the north and south of Cape Ann, according to Massachusetts Department of Public Health spokeswoman Anne Roach.
Although the first infected mosquito was found a month ago in Whitman, there have been no human cases, she said. Infected mosquitoes have also been trapped in Belmont, Pittsfield, Waltham and Westport, Roach said.
The pending surge in mosquitoes comes as the majority of Cape Ann’s communities remain committed to combating the problem in their own.
While Manchester signed on to join the Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control and Wetlands Management District, at a cost of $35,000 for the year, Town Meeting voters in Essex shot down a proposal to join the services group at an estimated cost of $40,000. And despite a recommendation from the city’s Health Department to become part of the district, which coordinates testing, spraying and other services, Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk did not include the $87,000 needed to participate in the district, either.
The Rockport Board of Health, however, is due to take up the issue at its meeting tonight at 6:30 at the Town Hall Annex.
MacGregor said the mosquito problem is the worst she’s seen in several years.
“We’re seeing pretty healthy populations of mosquitoes, especially some of the ones that carry disease,” MacGregor said. “I’m very concerned about the amount of mosquitoes we’re seeing in our traps.”
Roach said the populations of mosquitoes that could potentially carry EEE are “slightly above average” in southeastern Massachusetts. Although populations of those that carry West Nile are not particularly large, the weather conditions are favorable for breeding mosquitoes, she said.
Last summer, mosquitoes carrying West Nile or EEE were trapped in several North Shore communities, with mosquitoes testing positive for both diseases turning up in Hamilton near the Essex and Manchester lines. The cases led to the cancellation of a wide variety of evening events across Cape Ann and in many communities around the North Shore.
An Amesbury woman who contracted EEE and died last Sept. 24; A Georgetown man with the virus died Sept. 27.
For more information on mosquito-borne illnesses and how to avoid them, visit the state health department website at mass.gov/dph/mosquito or call (617) 983-6800.