Gusty winds are causing state officials to postpone aerial spraying of mosquitoes that was supposed to start this evening across a broad swath of Southeastern Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health announced. Authorities said the spraying will begin Thursday night, weather permitting.
The insecticide sumithrin, a synthetic version of a chemical found in chrysanthemum flowers, was supposed to rain down in a fine mist across communities in Bristol and Plymouth counties. But if winds exceed 10 miles per hour, equal application of the pesticide cannot be assured. Forecasts suggest wind speeds tonight will approach 15 miles per hour.
Twelve communities — Lakeville, Bridgewater, Carver, Halifax, Pembroke, Duxbury, Kingston, Plympton, Middleborough, Rochester, Raynham, and Acushnet — were scheduled to be sprayed in their entirety. The spraying plan also called for the planes to cover parts of East Bridgewater, Hanson, Mattapoisett, New Bedford, Marion, Fairhaven, Dartmouth, Freetown, Berkley, Taunton, Easton, Norton, West Bridgewater, Plymouth, and Wareham.
The decision to start aerial spraying was prompted by testing that showed an unprecedented level of virus-infected mosquitoes in July. More than 30 samples of mosquitoes had tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis. It's a time of year when there's usually scant evidence of the virus circulating, and even in years when human cases of the disease have been diagnosed, it's rare to find more than 10 pools of infected mosquitoes in July, the state's top disease tracker said.
No human cases of the disease have been diagnosed in the state since 2008. From 2004 through 2006, there were 13 cases, resulting in six deaths.
To avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, specialists recommend staying inside from dusk to dawn, peak mosquito-biting time. If outdoor activity is necessary at night, wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks. Bug repellents such as DEET, permethrin, picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus can also provide protection. DEET should not be used on infants younger than 2 months and should be used in concentrations of 30 percent or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children younger than 3 years.
Homeowners can take measures that reduce mosquitoes' breeding grounds, including draining flower pots, wading pools, and gutters.
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