August 14, 2013
The Town of Amherst has been identified by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to be at “high” risk for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a rare viral infection that is dangerous and often fatal to humans and spread by mosquitoes that are most active from dusk to dawn.
While there have been no human cases reported in the state for EEE this year, two horses in neighboring Belchertown have died from the disease during the past week and mosquitoes caught in Amherst have tested positive for the virus.
Because of this, Amherst College has shortened evening outdoor activities (athletics practices and games, for example) so they end before sunset until further notice. In addition, members of the campus community are urged to take precautions when going outside between dusk and dawn; two simple measures to take include using insect repellent and wearing long sleeves, long pants and socks. Orientation excursions for First-Year and new transfer students are being curtailed, and scheduled upcoming evening events are also being adjusted to minimize exposure to the campus community, using the Massachusetts Department of Health's Recommended Cancellation Times for Outdoor Activities in High Risk Areas to provide guidelines.
The dusk to dawn curtailment on outside events accords with recommendations from the state Department of Public Health for towns designated at high or critical risk for EEE and is expected to remain in effect until the first hard frost, which kills mosquitoes. We will notify the community in a subsequent email when that has occurred and the ban is lifted.
On campus, Facilities staff have applied larvacide to areas of standing water to prevent mosquito breeding. Contractors are being advised of the DPH warnings and are being urged to take precautions to safeguard their workers. Students and campus employees are also being urged to use care when outside in the evening and to use insect repellent.
For those who need to be outside in the evening, the college has acquired single dose packets of insect repellent that are available at Valentine Dining Hall, Alumni Gymnasium, and the Campus Police Department in the Services Building.
More information about EEE can be found at the following links:
What’s Cancelled When?
College officials will be using the Massachusetts Department of Health’s Recommended Cancellation Times for Outdoor Activities in High Risk Areas to schedule campus activities.
What is Eastern Equine Encephalitis?
- MA Dept. of Health: EEE Fact Sheet (PDF)
- MA Health and Human Services: Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus
- Massachusetts EEE Risk Categories Map
Photo: Wiki Commons