Authorities say a sample pool of mosquitoes found in Peabody has tested positive for the Eastern equine encephalitis virus, or EEE, less than a week after the virus was confirmed in Hamilton, adding another confirmation of a potentially-dangerous mosquito-borne virus along the northern Route 128 corridor that leads to and from Cape Ann.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health confirmed Friday that routine sampling in Peabody had turned up the virus, which had also been previously confirmed in Topsfield. A previous sample of mosquitoes in Peabody had tested positive for West Nile Virus on Aug. 8.
Extra targeted spraying was scheduled to take place in Peabody over the weekend, according to a prepared statement issued by the Peabody Department of Human Services. The city has previously been the focus of pesticide treatment for catch basins, where mosquitoes are known to lay eggs, and targeted spraying.
Though there have been no known cases of EEE or West Nile Virus in humans or animals in Peabody this year, authorities are warning the public to avoid mosquitoes by covering up and wearing repellant when outside.
“The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes,” the department’s statement read. “Consider rescheduling outside activities that occur during evening or early morning.”
The finding of the EEE virus in Hamilton earlier last week in a pool of mosquitoes near the Manchester town line prompted officials in Manchester out carry out a spraying program last Friday night.
But while health officials in other communities have noted the need for residents to be vigilant – using mosquito repellant, covering up with long sleeves and long pants, especially during peak mosquito hours drom dusk to dawn, and clearing standing pools of water that serve as insect breeding grounds — no other Cape Ann communities have taken up active spaying programs.
Gloucester was deemed as having a low risk of infection as of last week, according to Public Health Director Noreen M. Burke — though she cautioned residents to take action by repairing window screens, using netting on baby carriages, while also dumping and clearing all standing water while wearing long-sleeved clothing.
“We are in a low-risk area, but that doesn’t mean we’re without risk,” Burke said. “So we encourage these precautions.”
Essex, as reported in Saturday’s Times’ story, is not part of the Northeast Mosquito Control District, which authorizes towns to spray, and tests mosquitoes in enrolled towns for disease.
Since the town has decided against enrolling in the program for many years, Essex is on its own for carrying out any testing and prevention measures. But Elaine Wozny, administrator for the town’s Board of Health, is urging people to protect themselves from mosquitoes and the diseases they can carry.
“If it’s in Hamilton on the Essex border, mosquitoes don’t pay attention to town lines,” Wozny said.
Initial symptoms of EEE include stiff neck, headache, fever and lack of energy.
Mosquito samples are collected for testing twice a week between May and September.
Further information about EEE and West Nile Virus can be located at www.mass.gov/dph/wnv.