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INFORMATIONAL LETTER NO: 47

POLICY CODE: IHAM

 

TO:                             Superintendents, Principals and School Nurses

FROM:                       Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

DATE:                        October 6, 2005

SUBJECT:                 Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)

            The Bureau of Health staff members have assisted the Department of Education in preparing information for schools to assist them in reducing the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis. 

            Since mid-September, two horses and one bird from York county have tested positive for EEE virus.  EEE is primarily found in birds but can be transmitted, though rarely, to humans and horses through bites by infected mosquitoes.  Fortunately, there are several overall recommendations for schools and parents that, if implemented, will greatly decrease the transmission risk of EEE and other mosquito-borne diseases (e.g., West Nile virus infection).

            Mosquitoes are generally more active during the dawn and dusk hours and are more active when the temperature is 55-60 degrees or greater.  The primary prevention method is to minimize exposure to mosquitoes, by wearing long sleeves and pants, and applying insect repellent to exposed skin when exposed to mosquitoes.  After-school activities (sports, etc.) occurring during dusk are more likely to coincide with the time when mosquitoes are most active.  Parents should be advised to provide an effective mosquito repellent (DEET, etc.) to their children so that they may apply it if mosquitoes become active during the event.  Parents and other spectators who attend these events should also be encouraged to apply repellent and to wear appropriate clothing. Advice on appropriate use of insect repellents can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/qa/insect_repellent.htm#kids

            It is important for schools and residents to be aware of areas around the school and their homes that collect water where mosquitoes may breed, and to empty such containers every two days – this will kill any mosquito larvae that may be present.  Screens should be in good repair to help prevent mosquitoes from gaining access to schools and homes. 

            These are general recommendations that should be in effect in all areas in Maine during warm weather.  The decision to postpone evening events, and/or to keep children inside at recess, must be made by the individual schools, keeping the actual risk of EEE infection in perspective.  Time of day, mosquito activity, the ability to apply insect repellent, the importance of minimizing disruption of school and extracurricular activities, and the confirmed presence of EEE activity in the area are all factors to consider in making the decision most appropriate for the local situation.  Areas of woods close to red maple or cedar swamps are locations of greater risk of exposure to EEE-infected mosquitoes.

If you have specific questions, you may contact the Bureau of Health, Division of Disease Control at 1-800-821-5821.