Written by 3:40 pm Uncategorized

R.I. high school sports officials assemble game plans to evade disease …

Mosquitoes. The pesky, buzzing, biting, sometimes disease-carrying little buggers are once again stirring up trouble for high school athletic programs.

Every fall for at least the last several years, samples of mosquitoes have tested positive either for West Nile virus or eastern equine encephalitis in one or more communities throughout the state.

Earlier this month, the Rhode Island Departments of Environmental Management and Health announced that a pool of the insects trapped near Barrington High School tested positive for West Nile, while EEE was found in mosquitoes trapped in northern Tiverton and in Chapman Swamp in Westerly. This week, a pool of mosquitoes trapped in eastern Exeter has tested positive for EEE.

The news is worrisome not only for the high school sports teams within those particular communities, but also those that will be traveling to those cities and towns to play against them. Last fall, several Friday night football games were moved to earlier in the day so that players and fans would not be outdoors at dusk when mosquitoes are most prevalent.

The key is to be proactive, said Barrington athletic director George Finn.

“We had been monitoring the mosquito activity throughout the summer,” he said, adding that he also stayed in regular contact with both DEM and the Department of Health.

“Our custodial staff has assisted in making sure we have eliminated any standing water and the Department of Public Works has been very helpful in keeping vegetation trimmed around our facilities on a regular basis and communicating with us about the continued monitoring process.

“Knowing that both West Nile virus and EEE threats will occur each fall, we planned last spring to reduce some evening contests in September when developing our athletic outdoor schedules,” Finn continued. “If we do host an evening contest, insect repellant will be provided for both teams and spectators.”

Finn also provided all of his coaches with a list of guidelines from DEM and the Department of Health to reduce exposure to mosquitoes and has supplied the teams with insect repellant for practices and games.

“We don’t go out at dusk,” Barrington girls cross country coach Annmarie Marino said. “We go right after school, so we’re out of there by 4:30, maybe by 5 if it’s a difficult day. Unless it’s a cloudy day or we’re on the trails, it may be a concern, but when we’re out on the track or warming up, it doesn’t seem to be an issue. And when we do travel to wooded areas, we have bug spray in our med kit.”

 In an effort to help schools tackle the mosquito problem, the R.I. Interscholastic League worked with health officials to come up with recommendations.

“Once the Department of Health puts out an alert, it’s really then up to the individual schools and the local community to decide how to handle it,” said RIIL assistant director Michael Lunney. “We wanted to be a resource for the schools and make sure they were aware of what they can do to protect people the best way they can. So we worked with the Department of Health on being able to communicate to the schools what their options are when these situations come up. Moving games is certainly something a community can do, but there are other things that can be done. So we put together a really comprehensive communication and think it helped schools this year to be able to say, ‘OK, what are our options and what can we do and what can’t we do.’”

At the suggestion of East Greenwich athletic director Chris Cobain, several high schools in South County joined forces this year to address the mosquito problem.

“Chris really was proactive and coordinated with South Kingstown, Chariho, Westerly, North Kingstown, and of course EG, back in late August to come up with a plan,” Westerly athletic director Jamey Vetelino said.

In addition to scheduling earlier start times for fall sports contests whenever possible, the schools arranged to have their athletic facilities where night games are played sprayed by a mosquito-control service. Westerly and Chariho, for example, used The Mosquito Authority, Vetelino said.  That company’s website states that its “barrier mist program” involves applying “a light mist of a very mild insecticide formulated to repel mosquitoes,” and notes that it “is a milder concentration of the active ingredient used in shampoo prescribed by doctors to treat lice in children’s hair” and does not affect “beneficial insects such as honey bees, ladybugs, and butterflies.”

Other solutions discussed by the athletic directors, Vetelino said, included providing “information to parents and fans via intercom, newsletter, social media, etc.” and providing insect repellant at night games.

Visited 4 times, 1 visit(s) today