Calling all ghost and goblins: It's almost time to hit the streets for trick-or-treating.
But even characters from the spirit world are susceptible to diseases carried by mosquitoes, so the ghosts and goblins will have to change their Halloween habits this year.
Instead of going door to door in the early evening, trick-or-treaters will head out earlier to avoid the threat of EEE — a risk for everyone in the region this year after infected mosquitoes were found in several local communities.
To avoid the immediate time after sundown when mosquitoes tend to be out, Andover's official trick-or-treat hours have been set by the Select Board for 4 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 31 — an hour earlier than in past years.
The board voted on the hours at its meeting Monday night. Board members said the shift in hours comes as a safety precaution against eastern equine encephalitis, or the EEE virus.
Andover Health Director Thomas Carbone said the risk level for the virus in Andover still remains "high," but added that there is less mosquito activity in October than previous months because of lower temperatures.
"The expectation is that with the revised hours of 4 to 6 p.m., the kids should be inside before dark," Carbone said. "We think that this is a good strategy to get them in before the high-mosquito time."
In past years, trick-or-treating in Andover has been from 5 to 7 p.m.
Carbone recommended children still wear repellent if their Halloween costumes do not entirely cover their bodies. He said the EEE risk level will remain "high" until the first killing frost, different from a minimal lawn frost, where mosquitoes can shelter under leaves for survival.
After EEE was detected in the region in late summer, several local communities canceled nighttime outdoor activities such as high school sports. Residents have been encouraged to stay indoors at night if possible, or if they go out, to wear pants and long-sleeve shirts and use insect repellent.