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EEE threat keeps kids off NH playgrounds; new infection found in Deerfield horse

Union Leader Correspondent

October 08. 2013 10:23PM

Fall can be a fun time to be outside, but the threat posed by mosquitoes infected with Eastern equine encephalitis has kept students at Sandown North Elementary inside for recess — for weeks.

“Unfortunately we’ve had some beautiful weather and we haven’t been able to take advantage of that. It’s not an ideal situation when you start getting sick mosquitoes in the first and second weeks of September,” said Dr. Earl Metzler, superintendent of the Timberlane Regional School District.

Infected mosquitoes were discovered on school grounds in early September. With no hard frost predicted in southeastern New Hampshire to kill this year’s mosquitoes, the students and staff are finding ways to keep themselves entertained while they remain inside.

EEE is a potentially fatal disease with symptoms that include high fever, severe headache and stiff neck. The disease is spread through a bite from an infected mosquito.

According to the state’s public health department, 20 batches of mosquitoes have tested positive for EEE in the state this season; 14 have tested positive for West Nile virus.

One person was diagnosed with West Nile and three horses tested positive for EEE.

The most recent infection was announced Tuesday after a horse in Deerfield tested positive. The finding prompted the state to increase the risk level in Deerfield from “remote” to “high.” The level was also raised to “moderate” in surrounding towns, including Allenstown, Candia, Epsom, Hooksett, Northwood, Nottingham, and Raymond.

“Even though it is October, there are still mosquitoes around and therefore the risk for more cases of EEE and West Nile virus. Until there is a killing frost that covers the entire state, it is important that people protect against mosquito bites no matter where you live,” Dr. José Montero, the state’s public health director, said in a statement.

Sandown North, which has students in pre-kindergarten to third grade, is the only school in the Timberlane district that’s requiring kids to stay indoors until the threat is gone.

Metzler is crossing his fingers and hoping a frost comes soon so students can enjoy outdoor recess again.

The school area was sprayed to kill off mosquitoes after they were found to be infected, but officials still decided it was best not to have students outside.

“It wasn’t a risk that we felt we wanted to take,” Metzler said.

Most parents have been understanding, Metzler said.

“They share the exact same emotions. They want their kids safe. We want their kids safe,” he said.

While experts say it usually takes two hard frosts to kill most mosquitoes, Metzler said he’ll feel comfortable allowing students back outside after the first frost.

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