Despite Andover's risk of the EEE virus being elevated from "moderate" to "high" Monday, Health Director Thomas Carbone said people should be concerned but avoid putting their daily lives on hold.
Still, the town is taking precautions. Andover has put an end to all outdoor events at 7:30 p.m. through Sept. 7. The effective time will roll back as the time of sunset changes in the coming weeks.
Andover's risk level of the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus moved to high Monday after two batches of mosquitoes were found to be infected with the virus. Because of the town's high-risk designation, Carbone said the Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control District has made Andover one of the organization's top priorities.
Methuen's risk was deemed "critical" in the western portion of that city on Monday after a horse died from EEE.
Andover and Methuen are undergoing mosquito spraying with the material zenivex E4-RTU, an oil-based adulticide, health officials said. While the communities continue to move forward with the preventative method, Carbone said it's hard to tell how effective the spraying is.
"Spraying certainly helps us to decrease the risk of a transmission, but at this point in the game I think that the residents are best served by assuming that EEE is throughout town and they should be taking precautions to protect themselves from a bite," Carbone said.
With concerns surrounding the virus increasing in Andover, Carbone said town health officials have received numerous calls from residents who want their properties sprayed.
Carbone, however, said spraying would not be effective in some areas of town.
"We have considered a town-wide spraying, but the Mosquito Control District said that there are some areas of town that just wont be beneficial to treat because of the type of mosquito we are targeting," he said. "The type of mosquito we want to target is one that likes to breed in a reedy marsh or swamp, so putting the resources in an area that doesn't have those probably isn't the best plan. We want to be smart with how we are responding."
For the second time this month, mosquitoes in Andover tested positive for EEE. The more recent pool of insects was found on Haggetts Pond Road near Gavin Circle, and on Chatham Road. That area was sprayed Monday.
The first discovery of EEE in Andover this year happened Aug. 13, when two collections of mosquitoes in the Abbot Street area tested positive for the virus. Health officials said the affected mosquitoes were a species known to bite humans.
The area that includes parts of Andover, Central and Woburn streets, Spring Grove and Eastman roads and Abbot Bridge Drive were sprayed last week.
Because the horse died in Methuen from EEE, areas west of Interstate 93 in that city was scheduled to receive mosquito spraying from 7:30 p.m. to midnight on Wednesday, weather permitting. In case of poor weather, spraying will happen on Thursday.
Officials said Methuen will also formally request that the Mosquito Control and Wetlands Management District spray the entire city, including parks and fields.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the EEE virus is a rare cause of brain infections or encephalitis. EEE causes very few human cases each year but can be fatal or leave victims with serious, lifelong complications.
The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. If you are outdoors at any time and notice mosquitoes around you, take steps to avoid being bitten by moving indoors, covering up and/or wearing repellent.
Health officials say homeowners should limit the number of places around properties 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 water in birdbaths frequently.