Op-Ed: Massachusetts’ EEE Crisis – Reaching Out to Bedford’s Legislators

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The Bedford Board of Health is reaching out in response to the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) crisis. To date, twelve cases of EEE have been identified in Massachusetts, including a 5-year-old from Sudbury, and three deaths have been linked to EEE.

Both Sudbury and Bedford are members of the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Program (EMMCP) and have conducted proactive preventive mosquito control. Still, EEE positive mosquitoes have been identified in Bedford and Burlington, and we have a human case in Sudbury.

Neither the Town of Bedford, the EMMCP, nor individual property owners can protect the health and well-being of our citizens from this serious and often fatal disease without the help of surrounding communities and our partners at the state.

We are at a critical point in our efforts to fight EEE. Part of the answer lies in making improvements to the fractured nature of mosquito surveillance and control in the Commonwealth.

Each city and town must “opt-in” to a district mosquito surveillance and control program, and not all areas of the state have one.  Bedford budgets resources every year for surveillance and control by EMMCP because we have a history of an EEE outbreak, but some nearby communities such as Carlisle and Woburn have not “opted-in”, so surveillance and control in those areas is incomplete.

Additionally, although over the past 20 years many area Boards of Health have reached out and requested mosquito control intervention from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service at the nearby Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge located in our region, there has been a lack of support for mosquito control from the Refuge.

There is, however, a Handbook for Mosquito Management on National Wildlife Refuges (www.fws.gov/policy/MosquitoHandbook_6_2018.pdf), published in 2018, that calls for the organization of a mosquito management plan (including the potential application of larvicide in the Refuge) between Refuge officials and local mosquito professionals when evidence of the threat of disease emerges.

For these reasons, we ask you to contact your local and federal legislators, as well as encourage your town officials and the public to do the same, to implore them to request the adoption and implementation of the mosquito management plan outlined in the Handbook above.

And further to lobby for a state-wide plan and funding for future mosquito control to prevent future outbreaks of EEE, West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

If Readers Wish to Reach Out

The Bedford Board of Health offers the following contact information and suggested language for use in your outreach:

Massachusetts’ US Senators
Elizabeth Warren – Contact: https://www.warren.senate.gov/contact/shareyouropinion
Edward Markey – Contact: https://www.markey.senate.gov/contact

Bedford’s US Representative
Seth Moulton – Contact: https://moulton.house.gov/contact/

Suggested Text

Dear ________

Massachusetts is experiencing the worst state-wide outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) on the eastern seaboard this year.

In 2018, U.S. Fish and Wildlife issued a “Handbook for Mosquito Management on National Wildlife Refuges” that includes a mosquito management plan for mosquito control by local officials if a public health emergency arises.

Although Commonwealth mosquito control officials have contacted Refuge Managers to develop such a plan, none have complied.

Please encourage federal Refuge Managers to negotiate an urgently needed contingency plan with our mosquito control officials as soon as possible.

Sincerely yours,  ___________“

Bedford’s State Legislators
State Rep. Ken Gordon – Contact Ken.Gordon@mahouse.gov 
State Sen. Mike Barrett – Contact Mike.Barrett@masenate.gov

Suggested Text

Dear ________

Massachusetts is experiencing the worst state-wide outbreak of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) on the eastern seaboard this year. There are thousands of species of mosquitoes, each with its own life cycle, and dozens of mosquito species that carry diseases. Methods to reduce populations of mosquitoes that carry disease have been in existence for decades and are proven.

So if we know how to effectively control mosquito-borne diseases, why is EEE emerging at “Critical” levels in Massachusetts?  Part of the answer lies in the fractured nature of mosquito surveillance and control in the Commonwealth. Currently, each city and town must “opt-in” to a district mosquito surveillance and control program, and not all areas of the state have one.

We need a state-wide plan and funding for mosquito control to prevent future outbreaks of EEE, West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses and encourage you to immediately initiate and/or support legislation to this end.”

Sincerely yours,  ___________

Editor’s Note: The Bedford Citizen now posts both OpEd messages and Letters to the Editor. OpEd messages will express the writer’s particular expertise on issues that may have a wider focus than simply Bedford. Letters to the Editor will continue to share opinions and perspectives from residents about local matters. Both OpEd and Letters to the Editor posts reflect only the writer’s point of view.