Schools in a US city have ordered recess and physical education classes indoors as the country grapples with the risk of the mosquito-borne brain-infecting virus Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Officials in Marlboro, Massachusetts, have already put restrictions on outdoor activities directing they must end by 7 pm.
Superintendent of School, Michael Bergeron said the recess and gym class changes were ordered as a cautionary measure until further notice, CBS News reported. “Several times during the year we have recess indoors anyways so it’s really not an inconvenience to us. We thought out of an abundance of caution it’s the right thing to do just for a couple weeks and we will revisit this in a couple weeks to see where we are at,” Bergeron said.
Fatalities linked to the mosquito-borne disease in the United States have reached seven. Health officials in Connecticut said mosquitoes in 12 towns have already tested positive for the EEE virus.
“Most people infected with EEE virus do not become ill. When symptoms do occur they can range from mild fever and headache to coma. Other symptoms include high fever, fatigue, muscle aches, neck stiffness, tremors, or confusion,” the Connecticut Department of Public Health said.
“I got a lot of calls yesterday with some concerns from parents,” Andy Bernabei, the Marlboro director of early childhood education, told CBS, adding, “I’ve told them this is a precaution we just want to keep the kids safe and make sure nothing happens.”
Parent Kaillee Sanquintin said, “School doesn’t want to be liable if a mosquito just so happens to bite somebody’s child and they end up with the EEE.”
The city sprayed for mosquitoes on August 26 and 27. The Department of Public Health has listed dozens of communities in Massachusetts as high risk for EEE, with more than 100 at moderate risk.
The health department said the best way to ensure protection from mosquitoes is by using bug sprays, draining standing water near homes and stay indoors at dusk and dawn. The threat of EEE will persist until the first frost kills the mosquito population, according to WBZ-TV’s chief meteorologist Eric Fisher, in October and maybe even November for some towns.
Incidentally, the EEE— a zoonotic alphavirus and arbovirus present in North, Central, and South America, and the Caribbean— was first recognized in Massachusetts in 1831, when 75 horses died mysteriously of viral encephalitis.