The raising of the recognized threat of mosquito-transmitted illnesses to “high” in Gloucester and Manchester and “critical” in the town of Essex this past week is raising all sorts of issues for those who schedule outdoor events — including the innovative “Ales for ALS” beer-brewing fund-raiser today at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum, which has moved the event up to noon to 5 p.m. instead of the later time initially planned.
Local high school sports officials have had to move games up to 3 p.m. or so to allow players to finish by what has become a 5 p.m. safety curfew in the face of a confirmed case of the potentially deadly Eastern equine encephalitis in a horse in Essex.
If that means also changing dates, or even canceling junior varsity games — which, under most circumstances, follow varsity soccer and field hockey clashes, especially, during the week — so be it. For the city- and town-ordered bans on sponsored outdoor activities after 5 p.m. until the threat eases drives home the awareness that this illness is a serious public health issue and cannot be ignored.
While mosquito-borne illnesses have become something of an annual threat, the high number of human cases of EEE and Wet Nile virus across the state have staked out this season as among the worst in a decade. That means taking the necessary precautions, playing it safe — and anxiously awaiting the first hard frost, which should eliminate the threat in the coming weeks.