The mosquito-borne disease known as eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) normally infects around seven people in the United States per year, and is considered rare in the country. This year, however, Massachusetts has seen an unprecedented number of residents contract the disease, as at least 12 cases, four of which were ultimately fatal, have been reported from the state, according to 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Normally, all annual EEE infections and fatalities occur before September 15th in the northeast, but the latest EEE fatality occurred on October 11th in Massachusetts, and biting mosquitoes remain active in urban and rural areas of the state today. In fact, this year, it seems as though biting mosquitoes will remain a nuisance into November, as local officials and residents of several cities in Massachusetts have either considered, or have officially delayed trick-or-treating festivities until the first frost of the year kills off the mosquito threat.

The violent rainstorm that recently caused excessive property damage in many areas of Massachusetts indicates that disease-carrying mosquitoes must still be active in the state, and they are. A few months ago, state officials declared the high population of urban-dwelling mosquito species carrying EEE to be a public health threat in certain regions of the state, and today, hundreds of Massachusetts communities are on “high” or “critical” alert over EEE-carrying mosquitoes in urban and residential areas. Due to this threat, most communities on high or critical alert have delayed or rescheduled public events, like football games, but the mayor of Methuen changed the trick-or-treating schedule from the normal 5 to 7 PM to to an earlier 4:30 to 6:30 PM. This was done in order to prevent kids from sustaining mosquito bites, which become active biters around dusk each evening. Officials in Uxbridge, Easton, Carver, Grafton, Brookfield and many other “critical” states are now considering rescheduling or postponing trick-or-treating to a later date, unless a hard frost occurs before the 31st. In order for mosquitoes to die from the cold, temperatures must remain below freezing (28 degrees) for four consecutive hours, resulting in a hard frost.

Do you think that postponing trick-or-treating festivities is a good idea?