SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

June 4, 2014

Our view: Warmer weather ramps up mosquito threat

We’ve barely passed Memorial Day, and already, mosquitoes have arrived to suck a little joy out of warm summer evenings.

Mosquitoes are just now hatching, experts say, and with their arrival comes the threat of the illnesses they carry. In this region, the main threats are Eastern equine encephalitis — or EEE — and West Nile virus.

Which will strike first depends on the weather, Dragon Mosquito Control owner Sarah MacGregor told reporter Dustin Luca.

“If it’s dry, the EEE mosquitoes dry up,” MacGregor said, “whereas when it’s hot and dry, the habitats where West Nile virus lives maintain the populations.”

EEE isn’t as widespread as West Nile, but it is a far more serious threat. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one-third of humans who contract EEE will die, while most survivors will suffer severe brain damage. While West Nile can be fatal, most people infected exhibit no symptoms at all.

While EEE incidents were down a couple of years ago, they’re on the rise again, MacGregor told our reporter.

“We’re on an upward swing,” MacGregor said. “If we do see an average or above amount of rainfall, we’ll see a fair amount of EEE.”

An elderly woman in Salem contracted West Nile, and a woman in Norfolk County died after being infected with EEE.

The Salem case led to three days of hospitalization in intensive care and a stay at a rehabilitation facility, relatives of the woman said last year.

In Massachusetts last year, EEE was detected in a mosquito caught in Methuen. West Nile virus was detected in Salem, Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Middleton, Hamilton, Swampscott and numerous other Essex County towns. Outdoor activities on municipal property in several cities and towns were suspended while those communities conducted spraying campaigns.

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