HAMILTON-WENHAM — The threat of Eastern equine encephalitis has led to a ban on outdoor activities in Hamilton and Wenham.
In Wenham, the ban extends to all public organized activities, such as sports practices. In Hamilton, the ban includes all organized activities, both public and private, such as backyard barbecues at private homes.
The bans were adopted at emergency meetings of Hamilton and Wenham's boards of health Monday night.
Leslie Whelan, health agent for the town of Hamilton, said yesterday the ban will be self-enforced, and the board hopes neighbors will remind neighbors about the risk of mosquito bites.
"Hamilton is at the highest risk (for EEE). ... We're just being really clear that it's a really dangerous activity to be hanging around outside," said Whelan. "People are going to make their own decisions, but by using this language that we've chosen (banning all activities), we're underscoring the importance of avoiding mosquito bites."
A horse in Essex tested positive for EEE this week, which led the state Department of Public Health to raise the threat level to "critical" for both Essex and Hamilton, which borders Essex.
The DPH also raised the EEE threat this week from "moderate" to "high" for Ipswich, Wenham, Topsfield, Gloucester and Manchester-by-the-Sea.
Critical is the highest threat level on the health department's five-level scale, said Whelan. The state recommends towns with high or critical threat levels cancel outdoor evening events.
The threat remains until the region has its first hard frost — when the temperature dips below 28 degrees for at least four hours.
Jonathan Tymann, athletic director at Gordon College in Wenham, said he spent most of yesterday afternoon rescheduling athletic and intramural sports practices and games. The college president, D. Michael Lindsay, ordered that all outdoor activities, from student club events to sports practices, be rescheduled or moved indoors.