EXETER — The discovery of mosquitoes infected with potentially deadly Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Exeter has prompted the town and other communities to begin spraying around parks and schools.
State health officials announced Monday that the first batch of mosquitoes testing positive for EEE in the state this summer was found in Exeter.
Late summer is usually when mosquitoes infected with EEE and West Nile virus begin showing up, but experts say this year is a little different.
"In general, the season has seemed to be ahead of schedule," said Steve Freeman, director of operations for Kittery, Maine-based Municipal Pest Management Services, the mosquito control company hired to trap mosquitoes and spray in Exeter and other New Hampshire communities.
Freeman said there's no true prediction of how the mosquito season will go, but he added, "I think everybody feels this is just the beginning and when it shows up people do get concerned. When they see EEE it triggers everybody into motion."
EEE is a rare and often fatal viral disease spread through a mosquito bite that strikes the nervous system and is more deadly than West Nile.
State and local officials began sounding the alarms over EEE in 2005 after the death of 20-year-old Kelly Labell of Newton. Other human and animal cases have been reported in the state since then, but there have been no human deaths in recent years.
Symptoms of EEE include high fever, severe headache, and a sore throat. A stiff neck can also occur in the more severe form of the disease. Symptoms usually occur four to 10 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito. In addition to the batch of EEE-infected mosquitoes in Exeter, six batches of mosquitoes have been found carrying West Nile Virus elsewhere, including neighboring Stratham.
The state saw nine mosquito batches and four animals infected with EEE last year.
Exeter Town Manager Russell Dean said the town performed barrier spraying to kill mosquitoes Tuesday morning at Brickyard Park and Brickyard Pond.
The field at Brickyard Park was closed Monday night but was expected to reopen Tuesday night.
Dean said the area around Exeter High School and the Cooperative Middle School in Stratham was sprayed last week. The Lincoln Street and Main Street schools in Exeter will also be sprayed, Dean said.
"Right now we are doing targeted spraying in the high-risk areas, as well as schools to protect the students the best we can," Dean said, adding that many students are now using the fields for preseason fall sports.
In Newmarket, Town Administrator Steve Fournier said he's been meeting with the town's health officer and public works director on plans for the spraying of recreational fields as well.Freeman said Kensington and Portsmouth are also among the municipalities planning to spray in the wake of the EEE discovery in Exeter.
Those precautions often include wearing long clothing and using repellent with DEET if outdoors when mosquitoes are active at dawn and dusk.
The mosquito threat subsides after the first hard frost kills many of them. That usually occurs by the middle of October.