Concerns over mosquito-borne illnesses prompt cancellation of evening outdoor activities
Campus officials have cancelled nighttime outdoor activities as a precautionary measure against mosquito-borne illnesses such as eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). Departments, programs and students are being advised to reschedule outside events or, if possible, to move them indoors.
The dusk-to-dawn ban (approximately 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.) on outside events is in accordance with recommendations from the state Department of Public Health for towns designated at high or critical risk for EEE. Amherst is considered a high-risk community, according to DPH, which is urging communities to bar outdoor evening events until the first hard frost.
EEE is a rare viral infection that is dangerous and often fatal to humans, spread through infected mosquito bites. DPH has confirmed three cases of human EEE infection across the state this year. Officials have also reported 13 cases of another mosquito-transmitted disease, West Nile virus, in Massachusetts.
Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy approved the action, which was recommended by campus health and safety officials. The decision to reschedule evening events was made in consultation with Amherst town officials, who are taking the same steps, particularly for school athletic contests. Several other western Massachusetts communities, including Belchertown, Chicopee and Ware, are cancelling or rescheduling outdoor school-related events after dusk.
In a broadcast e-mail to students, faculty and staff, Subbaswamy said, "While this step may be an inconvenience for some groups or departments, it is important that we safeguard the health of our community."
University officials are taking similar steps for campus facilities in communities across the state that are considered at high or critical risk for EEE.
On campus, our grounds staff is applying larvacide to areas of standing water to prevent mosquito breeding. Contractors are being advised of the DPH warnings and are being urged to take precautions to safeguard their workers. Students and campus employees are also being advised to use care when outside in the evening and to use insect repellent.