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Dartmouth officials warn of increased mosquito-borne illness risk

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DARTMOUTH, Mass. (WPRI) — With recent testing confirming the presence of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) among mosquitoes in New Bedford, the Board of Health in neighboring Dartmouth is warning residents to be vigilant in protecting against being bitten.

On Tuesday, Dartmouth officials elevated the risk of the virus to moderate due to increased EEE activity in mammal-biting mosquitoes in the area. In addition, another mosquito-borne illness, West Nile virus, remains a concern.

EEE and West Nile virus are spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Health officials say people under the age of 15 or over the age of 50 are most susceptible to serious illness.

The Dartmouth Board of Health offered the following tips on how to protect yourself and your family to avoid exposure:

Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • Peak mosquito hours: The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that take place during evening or early morning hours. Otherwise, take extra care to use bug spray and protective clothing.
  • Clothing can help reduce mosquito bites. 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.
  • Apply bug spray when you go outdoors according to manufacturer’s directions. Use a bug spray with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] according to 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. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age. Permethrin products are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear and should not be applied to skin.

Remove Breeding Sites & Mosquito-Proof Your Home

  • Drain standing water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or getting rid of items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change the water in birdbaths frequently.
  • Install or repair screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors. Fix any holes or tears in screens, so mosquitoes can’t get in.
  • Check window mount air conditioner units. Make sure the unit and adjustable slides are tight-fitting to the window frame to exclude mosquitoes.

Protect Your Horses

  • Horse owners are encouraged to vaccinate their horses and reduce their horses’ exposure to mosquitoes. Signs of illness in any horse should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

The Board of Health says it will continue to work closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Bristol County Mosquito Control Project to evaluate and address areas of concern.

Updates and more information can be found at the Massachusetts Board of Health’s website and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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