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State Public Health Officials Announce Moderate Risk for West Nile Virus in 36 New Communities

BOSTON (August 08, 2017)—The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced that 36 additional communities are now at moderate risk for West Nile virus (WNV), bringing the total number of communities at moderate risk to 59 spread across eight counties. Moderate risk means mosquito activity is substantial enough that people should use personal protection to avoid being bitten by a mosquito. There have been no human cases of WNV this year.

The eight counties are Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Suffolk counties. The Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts and Worcester and its surrounding communities are experiencing more West Nile virus positive mosquito activity this year than in a typical season, said DPH Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown.

“The Boston area is usually a focus of WNV activity, but this year we are seeing evidence of widespread WNV infection in mosquitoes with particularly significant activity in and around Worcester and in the Pioneer Valley,” Dr. Brown said.

“I encourage everyone to use the tools of prevention, including applying mosquito repellent with an EPA-registered ingredient according to the directions on the label, wearing clothing to reduce exposed skin when weather permits, draining standing water to prevent mosquito breeding and repairing window screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home,” she said. Dr. Brown warned that “August and early September are when we see most of our WNV infections in people.”

WNV is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. In 2016, there were 16 human cases of WNV infection identified in Massachusetts. While WNV can infect persons of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease. Most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. When present, WNV symptoms tend to include fever and flu-like illness. In rare cases, more severe illness can occur.

People have an important role to play in protecting themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes.

Avoid Mosquito Bites
Apply Insect Repellent when Outdoors. Use a repellent with an EPA-registered ingredient (DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] or IR3535) according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.

Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning in areas of high risk.

Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites. Wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home
Drain Standing Water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change the water in birdbaths frequently.

Install or Repair Screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.

Protect Your Animals
Animal owners should reduce potential mosquito breeding sites on their property by eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires, and wading pools – especially after heavy rains. Water troughs provide excellent mosquito breeding habitats and should be flushed out at least once a week during the summer months to reduce mosquitoes near paddock areas. Horse owners should keep horses in indoor stalls at night to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. Owners should also speak with their veterinarian about mosquito repellents approved for use in animals and vaccinations to prevent WNV and EEE. If an animal is suspected of having WNV or EEE, owners are required to report to DAR, Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795 and to the Department of Public Health by calling 617-983-6800.

More information, including all WNV and EEE positive results, can be found on the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page at www.mass.gov/dph/mosquito or by calling the DPH Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.

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Photo: OEP Incident Command in Action

Members from Region 3 HMCC recently participated in the “Operationalizing Emergency Plans: Incident Command in Action” course at the Gould Barn in Topsfield.

The course focused on improving public health and healthcare agencies’ operational readiness, i.e. their ability to quickly and effectively transition from normal operations to emergency operations operating under an Incident Command System (ICS) structure, with a strict emphasis on utilizing existing Emergency Operations Plans (EOP) to guide the overall response.

The course is designed to engage participants in a hands-on learning environment, and consists of a fast-paced 4- hour practical session involving a simulated scenario based upon actual events that stresses public health and healthcare systems.

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Photos: HMCC Region 3 Hospitals Events

The hospitals of Massachusetts Region 3 are pleased to share photos from two events that they hosted earlier this month.

These events are the result of the 13 community hospitals working in collaboration to ensure and improve planning and response to disasters for their patients, visitors and staff.

For more information on each event, visit the event page:

Surge Capacity and Planning During a Disaster

Internal Medical Surge Capacity Planning Workshop

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Photo: Region 3 HMCC Participates in Emergency Preparedness Talk in Chelmsford

Along with the Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management and Medical Reserve Corps, Jonathan Brickett from Region 3 HMCC gave an emergency preparedness presentation to Chelmsford residents at the Chelmsford Public Library from 7-9 p.m. The event was sponsored by the Chelmsford Public Library.

Left to right: Selectman Pat Wojtas, DPH Health Volunteer Program Coordinator Liz Foley, Upper Merrimack Valley MRC Coordinator Nancy Burns and Jonathan Brickett.

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Photos: HMCC Region 3 Public Health Emergency Seminar

As part of the Regional Project for Local Public Health in Region 3, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Events (CBRNE) Seminar was held on Wednesday, March 1 at the Topsfield Fairgrounds. More than 75 people attended the event which was developed by the Region 3 Planners, Sheryl Knustsen, Neia Illingsworth and Elizabeth Peak Louge, as well as three presenters, HMCC Program Manager Mark Munroe, HMCC Program Coordinator Jonathan Brickett and Amesbury Assistant Fire Chief David Mather.

HMCC Program Manager Mark Munroe would like to recognize and thank all those involved for their hard work in developing a professional CBRNE Seminar. Without their hard work and dedication, the program would not have been the success it was.
Mark would also like to recognize and thank HMCC BOG member Assistant Chief David Mather for teaching the class. His expert knowledge was the key to making the program understandable and interesting.
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