GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 13, 2012

Frost may ease EEE outdoor bans

By Marjorie Nesin Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — 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.

West Nile Virus, which first invaded Massachusetts in 2000, expanded even more significantly, with 22 human cases this year, 16 more cases than in 2011.

The organized outdoor activities ban prompted school administrators to reschedule fall sporting events, conferencing with other schools and bus companies to rearrange competitions.

Manchester Essex Regional High School rearranged all of its sports games through next week to earlier times, and if the ban is lifted, the teams will continue along with the new schedule for next week while administrators look to avoid making further schedule changes in following weeks, according to Athletic Director Kelly Porcaro.

“It’s just too difficult for officials, with transportation and schedules and everything, to go and change it again,” Porcaro said.

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.