With the mosquito virus situation the worst it’s been in years, and with the first frost nowhere in sight, the state began spraying for the insects in numerous communities in three counties, including Foxboro and several neighboring towns in Norfolk County.
Foxboro, Wrentham, Norfolk and Franklin are scheduled to be aerial sprayed into next week, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.
Areas slated to be sprayed are considered at critical and high risk for the Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus.
Norfolk and Franklin are entirely in the spray zone while Foxboro and Wrentham are partly in the zone.
Focused primarily on the northern side of town, the areas slated for spraying in Foxboro encompass parts of the Lane Property, much of Beach and North streets, McKenzie Lane and its feeder roads, Edwards Road and side streets, the Dudley Hill and Reservoir Estates subdivisions, and areas surrounding Gillette Stadium along Route 1.
According to Town Manager William Keegan, local health director Pauline Zajdel reviewed details of the spraying program during a 90-minute phone conference with state officials on Tuesday.
More information, including maps showing areas sprayed and details about the spraying program, can be viewed at the health department page on the town website.
On Tuesday, Selectwoman Leah Gibson recommended that all local schools and playgrounds be treated — whether or not they are situated in the spray zone.
Other communities in Norfolk County earmarked for spraying are Bellingham, Medway, Millis, Medfield, Walpole, Sharon, Norwood, Westwood, Dover, Needham, and Wellesley.
While aerial spraying is weather dependent, above-average evening temperatures this week are likely to permit the application, authorities say.
As weather conditions permit, plans for subsequent rounds of spraying will include critical and high-risk communities in other counties, including Bristol County, officials said. Many of those communities have already been sprayed.
There are 36 communities now at critical risk, 42 at high risk, and 115 at moderate risk for the EEE virus in Massachusetts.
The virus has already proven deadly. A Fairhaven resident died from the virus last month and just this past weekend a West Warwick, R.I. woman died from EEE.
There have been a total of seven human cases of EEE in Massachusetts, including a 5-year-old girl from Sudbury.
Also, eight horses have contacted EEE in Massachusetts as well as a goat in Norton. Animals usually have to be put down once they contact the virus. MDAR reminds horse owners to promptly vaccinate their horses and get booster shots to ensure proper protection from EEE.
To date, 400 mosquito samples have proven positive for EEE, with 65 showing presence of West Nile Virus, which also can pose serious health problems. WNV has been found in Attleboro and Seekonk.
It is the first time in seven years planes have been used to spray for mosquitoes in Massachusetts. Other years spraying has been ground-based.
Aerial spraying in Foxboro and elsewhere is conducted by aircraft, beginning in the early evening and continuing until 4:30 a.m. in affected areas. Mosquito control professionals apply approved pesticides via sprayers dispensing fine aerosol droplets that stay aloft and kill adult mosquitoes on contact.
Active ingredients in the pesticide spray generally break down quickly and leave no ground residue, according to the state Department of Public Health.
State officials continue to urge residents throughout the state to continue to take personal precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
That includes eliminating standing water on property, limiting outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, using screens and insect repellent, and wearing longsleeve shirts and long pants.
According to state health officials, the types of mosquitoes which commonly transmit an EEE infection are likely to be out at dusk, which in mid-September occurs at approximately 7 p.m. As a result, many towns have canceled or restricted youth sports or other activities scheduled for the evening hours.
“Even as temperatures cool, it’s vitally important for us to remember that mosquito season is not over and that we all need to continue to take steps to prevent mosquito bites,” Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said.
Health officials also advise rescheduling evening outdoor activities. Rehoboth recently moved its outdoor concerts to an earlier time as a result.
EEE occurs sporadically in Massachusetts with the most recent outbreak years occurring from 2004-2006 and 2010-2012. There were 22 human cases of EEE infection during those two outbreaks.
Residents are encouraged to visit the DPH website at www.mass.gov/eee for the latest updates on spraying in their communities and other information.