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Friday, September 14, 2012

Amherst, Massachusetts Wants to Party

[click to enlarge]

With its first-ever annual downtown block party a fait accompli, the Town of Amherst showed thousands of students and others a thing or two about partying. Months in the making and spearheaded by the Amherst Business Improvement District--an economic development organization of local property owners--the festivities, from 6 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, September 13 convened along a makeshift pedestrian-only segment of the town’s main drag, North Pleasant Street.  And Amherst’s town government made sure that those best laid plans were immunized from naysayers--including its own previous warnings about the life-threatening Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus (a threat underscored by the Mothra-sized mosquito photo atop the town’s web site.) 

"The Celebrate Downtown Amherst Block Party .  .  .will be held as scheduled, announced Amherst Health Director Julie Federman via the town’s web site on the day of the party. “I am comfortable that an event of this type can be held safely in our downtown. Event organizers at my request will have two tables for mosquito repellent, one next to the Post Office and one near the Kendrick Park stage. The tables will also have advisory materials from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. If you are outdoors after dusk be sure to wear long sleeves and long pants and use mosquito repellent with DEET."

But two days before, a robo call to Amherst residents and web site advisory, both from Ms. Federman, had strongly urged residents to avoid outdoor activities from dusk to dawn when feasible until the first hard (mosquito killing) frost. (Several horses in nearby towns had come up positive for EEE in postmortems.)    If residents had no choice but to be outdoors, she recommended covering up and applying DEET. That message followed on the heels of  decisive action by the town’s biggest employer, the University of Massachusetts. The week before it had canceled all dusk-to-dawn outdoor activities on campus until the first hard frost.

The Centers for Disease Control’s description of  EEE outcomes presents a grim story--You’d  avidly  opt for ticks/Lime Disease, given the choice. While most folks bitten by an EEE infected mosquito fail to develop symptoms, one-third who do die and most who survive come away with significant, lasting brain damage.

Amherst parties on
When I told my physician  that Amherst’s party would go on as scheduled, he shrugged and noted that mosquitoes seek human body heat and that large gatherings of homo sapiens (like the Celebrate Downtown Amherst Block Party) create a concentrated heat island—in other words, parallel party-time for  mosquitoes. Oh, and the CDC notes that if EEE symptoms do manifest, it’s  4 to 7 days after a carrier bites you. So we await September 17-20.   Sic transit gloria Amhersti.

More on the event from Larry Kelley here.

1 comment:

LarryK said...

And the next time Ms. Federman issues a dire public warning via reverse 911 concerning wolves at the door, who will listen?