GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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October 13, 2012

Frost may ease EEE outdoor bans

A frost warning usually conjures up images of browned plants, flowers lost to cold, and inadequate vegetation.

But this year, the frost could bring along a sense of relief as well, putting the season of mosquito-borne illnesses to rest.

The National Weather Service out of Taunton was warning of an overnight frost at about 30 to 32 degrees in the early hours this morning, though temperatures are not expected to hit the freezing point again for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday’s expected temperatures between 2 a.m. and 9 a.m., at 30 degrees, are just 2 degrees higher than the required four hours of 28 degree weather that would constitute a hard frost and a finale for the threat of mosquito-borne illness, according to Elaine Wozny of the Cape Ann Emergency Planning Team.

“I saw the freeze warning on the news, so we’ll wait and see I guess,” Wozny said Friday. “I have mixed hopes. I hate to see all the vegetables go, but it would be good to have the end of this. People could be outside after 5 again and kids and adults could get on with their lives.”

All of Cape Ann’s communities clamped a ban on organized outdoor activities during peak mosquito hours after 5 p.m., after Essex, Gloucester and Manchester moved to a threat level of “high,” while Rockport has remained at “moderate” according to state health officials. Essex’s threat level jumped to critical at the beginning of October when a horse was diagnosed with Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE.

The ban was put in place to protect residents from the mosquito-borne illness threat that grew significantly in Massachusetts this year, according to statistics.

Three Massachusetts residents died as a result of EEE this year, including in Georgetown, while four more survived after diagnosis. Last year, there were just two cases of EEE across the entire state, according to the Department of Health.

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