The phone call and a press release issued by the town state that “Due to the increased risk of mosquito borne illnesses… the Board recommends curtailing all outdoor activities from 6:00 p.m. until dawn. Protect yourself and your family from mosquito borne illnesses by avoiding going outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active. You can also protect yourself by wearing long pants and sleeves and insect repellant. Make sure your doors and windows have screens.”
The recommendation stays in effect until the weather changes and there is at least one hard freeze. Historically, the date of first frost in Groton is October 1-10, but a simple frost doesn’t equate to a hard freeze.
“We’re being proactive because all the towns around us that are part of Mass Mosquito (Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project) are reporting positives for West Nile Virus. Westford, Devens, Chelmsford…. so we’re being proactive. We have to assume we have some positives too,” Dr. Susan Horowitz, Chairperson of the BoH, said. But the town is not planning on spraying for mosquitoes, nor is the Board of Health reconsidering its decision to join the Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project.
Westford began spraying early in August and was followed by Chelmsford a week or so later.
“It’s our opinion that if you look at all the town that have reported West Nile or EEE, they’ve been spraying for years,” she said. “And some of the towns that are doing aerial spraying are turning up more positives within a couple days of spraying. The Board of Health has not supported it in the past for economic and efficacy issues,” she said, adding “But anyone is welcome to create a citizen’s petition for town meeting to join Mass Mosquito.” Membership in the central Massachusetts spraying group costs about $76,000 per year.
Horowitz made several points related to why the Groton Board of Health has taken a position against annual spraying:
- Groton has intentionally not joined the state-sponsored spraying network because of its relatively high cost and questionable effectiveness.
- Vehicle-based mobile spraying only carries about 50 feet from the road, and is generally considered ineffective in environments like Groton, where there are numerous ponds, creeks, and other water sources — mosquito breeding area — much further from the roads.
- If mosquitoes with West Nile Virus or Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) something are identified in an area, the state can provide helicopter spraying which is much more effective.
Horowitz said that “If the state thinks there is an issue, they will come in and check for mosquitoes, but they’re not doing that yet.” If that happens, the state may impose helicopter spraying on the town.
The Board of Health has also posted warning notices along the Nashua River Rail Trail and been in contact with both the town’s private and public school systems, and the Parks Commission, urging them to reschedule evening sporting events. The Groton-Dunstable Regional School District sent an e-mail to parents including the line: “In accordance with the wishes of the local health authority, all outdoor school department activity in the regional district will end at 6:00 pm until further notice.”
Horowitz urged people looking for more information on the mosquito born illnesses to, please visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at www.mass.gov/dph . A shorter informational brochure from the Department of Public Health is available on the Town of Groton website at http://www.townofgroton.org/Portals/0/TownOfGroton/BCOs/Board%20of%20Health/Documents/Preventing%20Mosquito%20Bites.pdf