Recently, Massachusetts confirmed that there has been one death caused by Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), according to Stefan Russakow, Belmont's Director of Health.
While the risk of EEE in Belmont is relatively low, West Nile Virus is still a risk in the Belmont area.
Yet many families stop worrying about mosquito bites once their children return to school. But cooler temperatures are misleading when it comes to West Nile virus, a disease transmitted to people by the bite of an infected mosquito.
In fact, said Russakow, the greatest risk of infection from West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases is from August through the middle of October or until the first frost.
Children and adults who spend a lot of time outdoors - at recess or during sporting events - during the early evening and night hours are especially at risk for West Nile virus because this is when mosquitoes are most actively biting.
If your child participates in sports or recreational activities at these times, here are some tips:
Use Insect Repellant
The most effective repellents contain DEET, permethrin, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Always follow the instructions on the product label.
DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children.
Parents should choose the type and concentration of repellent by considering the amount of time that a child will be outdoors, and use the product with the lowest concentration of DEET needed. Low-strength repellents (5%) will be effective for about one-and-a-half hours (90 minutes) while the adult-strength repellents (25% to 30%) should last for about five hours. Keep in mind that physical exertion and sweating may also change individual attractiveness to mosquitoes and may decrease the time that repellents are effective.
Picaridin, a chemical repellent, should not be used on children under two months old.
Permethrin products are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear and should not be applied to skin
Oil of lemon eucalyptus, a plant-based repellent, has been found to provide the same protection as repellents with low concentrations of DEET. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should be used on children under three years of age.
Wear Protective Clothing
Although it may be difficult to do when it's hot, wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
West Nile Virus vs. Eastern Equine Encephalitis
In closing, please note that mosquitoes infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis are generally isolated to southeastern Massachusetts and are sometimes seen in the Merrimack Valley. Typically, this distribution means that EEE does not normally pose a threat to Belmont or other communities in metropolitan Boston.
If you have any questions, please contact the Belmont Health Department at 617-993-2720 or talk to your school nurse.