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Town and State Officials Continue to Monitor EEE Virus Threat

Town officials in both Mendon and Upton continue to monitor the threat of the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus in their respective communities and provide the most up to date information to residents concerning the situation.

On August 23, the Mendon Board of Health received notice that a horse had tested positive for the virus, which then sadly had to be euthanized. As a result, "Mendon is on the critical list," said Board of Health Chair Andy Fiske during an August 28 meeting.

As a result of the critical status, Fiske explained the state took over and announced mandated aerial spraying would begin as soon as weather conditions would permit. "The Mendon Board of Health had no control over the spraying," he explained. That spraying took place on August 27 over certain parts of Mendon that were determined by the state.

Several residents attending the Board of Health meeting noted their concern over the effects of the spraying, including Barbara Gokey who resides on a farm in town. Gokey said the morning after the spraying was complete, there was not "a bird in sight" on her property. Jane Belleville of the Mendon Agricultural Commission added the Commission would like to be an additional resource for residents concerning EEE.

According to Upton's Assistant Public Health Supervisor Diane Tiernan, Upton too was placed on the critical list as a result of a mosquito testing positive for EEE. In addition, a human case was diagnosed in the neighboring community of Grafton. As of August 28, there have been four confirmed human cases of the EEE virus in Massachusetts.

Upton had state mandated aerial spraying take place on August 27 and 28. Both Tiernan and Fiske said state officials will continue to monitor the EEE threat in their communities but as far as they know, spraying is complete for the season. The two also reiterated that spraying does not completely eradicate the threat of the virus and continue to urge residents to take other precautions such as minimizing outdoor activities, wearing long sleeves, pants, sox, and shoes, and using a bug spray with DEET (For more information see sidebar).

Town activities in both Mendon and Upton occurring from dusk to dawn have been canceled until further notice. It was also announced that Mendonfest, originally scheduled for August 23 from 3 to 11 p.m., was postponed until it could be rescheduled for a September date.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Health, the risk of EEE is essentially eliminated when the first hard frost of the year occurs, which is defined as two consecutive hours of temperatures below 28 degrees or three hours below 32 degrees.

Both Mendon and Upton town officials are keeping residents informed on the status of the EEE virus through town Web sites, Facebook postings, message boards on roads, and reverse 911 calls. Residents may also call their Boards of Health with questions.


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