Keeping Maine students safe from mosquito borne illnesses

In response to recent positive tests in mosquito pools in southern Maine, the Maine Department of Education in collaboration with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) is sharing this important guidance developed by the Maine CDC to schools regarding mosquito borne illnesses.

Two mosquito borne illnesses are considered a local risk in Maine: Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus (WNV). Both are potentially serious viral infections transmitted to people from the bite of an infected mosquito. The disease is especially severe in children (as well as adults over 50). There is no vaccine or effective treatment for humans. Therefore, prevention strategies are critical.

Both EEE and WNV have previously been identified in Maine, including positive tests for EEE in recent weeks in mosquito pools in York County and in an emu in Cumberland County. WNV was identified three pools of mosquitoes in 2013, and Maine saw our first human case of WNV in 2012. Massachusetts and Vermont have also identified both EEE and WNV in 2014, and New Hampshire has identified EEE, including a human case.

The risk for contracting mosquito borne diseases is highest from dusk to dawn and when temperatures are above 50 degrees (and especially above 60 degrees), since these are the conditions when mosquitoes are most actively biting.

Schools play an important role in preventing mosquito borne illnesses. Maine CDC and its consulting experts recommend:

  • Cover up outdoors. Children and others on outdoor field trips and participating in other outdoor activities for a significant amount of time when the temperature is above 50 degrees should be encouraged to cover up with long sleeve shirts, pants, and socks; and/or
  • Use repellent. Use an EPA approved repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin and/or clothing. The repellent/insecticide permethrin can be used on clothing and can be effective through several washes. Always follow the package directions. For details on recommended repellents, click here. Please note: School employees and volunteers must have authorization from parents or guardians before applying repellants to minor children (CMR 01-026, Chapter 10, Section 2.I.4.iii).
  • Schools that schedule practices or games at dusk or evening with temperatures above 50 degrees should encourage the use of repellant for all participants including coaches and observers.
  • Implement Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies. Since we anticipate the risk from mosquito borne illnesses to continue, schools should consult with their IPM Coordinator to review their IPM policy. Information on Maine’s School IPM Program can be found here.

Please monitor Maine CDC’s arboviral website for the most current information on positives detected in the state. If mosquito borne disease activity increases in your area, the following strategies should be implemented:

  • Use EPA approved repellents. These should be available to both students and staff who are outdoors, particularly during dusk and dawn hours. If you have an outdoor event, repellent should be available to spectators as well to limit the risk of mosquito borne diseases.
  • Consult with your school Integrated Pest Management coordinator and implement a plan to reduce the number of mosquitoes on school grounds.
  • Limit and/or reschedule evening outdoor activities. Unless the dusk temperature is forecast to be less than 50 degrees, limit or reschedule outdoor group evening activities such as school athletic events so people are able to go indoors by one hour before sunset.

All these recommendations are especially true in those areas with previously-identified mosquito borne illnesses.  However, the lack of identified virus in an area of the state does not mean there is no risk.

Maine CDC has one-page fact sheets for EEE, WNV and repellents which we encourage you to send home with students, share by email and/or post on your school website(s) as you deem appropriate. You can access the facts sheet here.

Resources to learn more about mosquito borne illness and mosquito control:

The Maine DOE and the Maine CDC continue to work very closely together and are greatly appreciative of your assistance in keeping Maine’s children and school communities healthy.

One thought on “Keeping Maine students safe from mosquito borne illnesses

  1. Based on the risk cited in the release, a state-wide alert suggesting restricting evening outdoor activities seems hardly justified. Kids, and adults, would be much healthier if they would spend more time outside rather than sitting inside watching an artificially lighted screen. I suggest you read the book, “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv. Yes, suggest proper clothing and insect repellants but DOE should encourage getting the kids outside.

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