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Amherst lifts ban on outdoor activities prompted by EEE threat; no change in Belchertown

A ban on outdoor activities prompted by the high risk in Amherst for Eastern Equine Encephalitis will be lifted starting Friday evening.

The Board of Health this week determined that although a hard frost has not yet occurred, mosquitoes are unlikely to be active when temperatures fall below 50 degrees in the evening.

Consistently low overnight temperatures are expected beginning that night, according to a statement issued Tuesday by Health Director Julie Federman.

The state’s Department of Public Health on Aug. 13 classified Amherst as a high risk for EEE, a rare but serious disease transmitted through the bite of a species of nighttime mosquito.

Since then, restrictions on outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active, have been in place at town-owned parks, conservation areas and recreation areas.

Similar to last year, the threat of EEE was highest locally in Belchertown, which reported the deaths of a pair of horses due to the disease earlier this summer. The state Department of Public Health raised the EEE threat level to “critical” in Belchertown after the first death of a horse from the mosquito-borne illness July 26. A second horse stabled in Belchertown died from EEE in early August. Because the animal died close to the Amherst line, the state raised the threat level for EEE in Amherst to high and to moderate in nearby Granby and Pelham.

Belchertown canceled a number of outdoor activities following the threat designation. Belchertown High School also changed the starting times for all of its scheduled home athletic events at night to before dusk until the first frost. That means, for example, that football games originally scheduled for 7 p.m. were pushed up to 5 p.m.

Doug Daponde, the Belchertown athletic director, said Tuesday that to his knowledge, there has been no change in that schedule. “The Board of Health would be the one to decide that and I have not heard from them,” he said.

Amherst Regional’s next home football game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 25.

More information is available by calling the Amherst Health Department at 259-3077.

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