EEE Update: Waiting for long, deep freeze across whole town

Above: If you’ve been waiting for the first frost in your yard to signify that it’s safe to go out at night without worrying about mosquitoes, you’ll be disappointed to know that you should expect to wait longer. (images from flickr posts L-R by Judy Gallagher and Brian Alexander)

Last night, selectmen were publicly briefed on the EEE situation in Southborough. I’m passing on what they learned.

To sum up, we’re still waiting for a deep freeze across the whole town that lasts 12 hrs – 2 days.

That appears to be what’s needed before the state can consider lowering the Town’s EEE threat status. The Town is still among the 35 in the state listed in the highest threat level category – critical. As long as the state deems the danger to be high, the Town can’t lift its curfew on public land/fields.

It also means that The personal protective measures still continue to be recommended. (Spraying with DEET, wearing long sleeves and pants, and staying inside from dusk-dawn.)

Southborough’s Public Health Director Paul Pisinski told selectmen that he recently checked in with the Central MA Mosquito Control Project. Its Director Tim Deschamps informed him that they are still collecting traps in various locations of Southborough. Mosquitoes carrying EEE and West Nile virus have been found. As the weather was getting cooler, the number has been diminishing/slowing down.

While aerial spraying can no longer occur this far into the fall, CMMCP can selectively spray land by truck when warranted.

Pisinski told the board that we still need at least 12-24 hours of a deep freeze, before we can be safe. He followed that policies from the MA Department of Health call for 2 consecutive days of below freezing weather.

Based on Pisinski’s recounting of a similar situation in 2012, even if you notice that your yard is frozen for two days, the Town may not be safe.

The Health Director explained that a 2012 prohibition on use of public lands/fields between 6:00 pm – 6:00 am had been prompted by mosquitoes detected to be carrying the West Nile Virus. That October, after “freezing conditions”, then-Chair of the Board of Health Dr. Louis Fazen investigated whether it was safe to lift the curfew. It turned out that while some valley areas of Town had frozen, some of the higher areas in town (like the tops of Wyndemere and Overlook Rd, etc) hadn’t. The Town had to wait for the state to rule when conditions were safe.

Pisinski said he wasn’t sure what will happen this time. It’s a wait and see. He clarified that the call needs to be made by the state’s  Board of Health, not the Town’s.

Upon questioning, Pisinski said that mosquitoes had been discovered in 3 traps in town. He couldn’t say how many traps are currently used here. (Though he recalled four being used in Southborough in 2012.) Pisinski explained that to avoid interference/vandalism, CMMCP doesn’t publicly disclose the trap locations.

Public Health Nurse Leslie Chamberlin told selectmen that this has been the most active year for EEE since 50 years ago. She reminded that the virus is carried by birds, which are unaffected by the disease. Mosquitoes can transmit the virus to humans and hooved animals (e.g., horses and llamas), which are susceptible.

Residents looking to stay informed are advised to continue to check the Town’s website where the most up-to-date EEE info is posted.  If the status changes to allow lifting the curfew, the Town will post it there and issue an announcement.

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