Shaker closing playing fields early because of West Nile Virus threat

BELMONT — Until the town sees its first hard frost, Shaker Regional School District Superintendent Marie Dreyer has said that all high- and middle-school fields will be off limits after 6 p.m. and the elementary school fields in town will be off limits at 5:45 p.m.

Dreyer is reacting to the news Wednesday afternoon that a horse in Belmont has been diagnosed with West Nile Virus, making the town a high-level risk for its inhabitants.

She said school staff combed all of the school properties for any containers that could possibly hold standing water and removed or destroyed them.

She said other measures taken by the Shaker Regional School District was either a letter or e-mail sent immediately to all parents as well as the purchase of cans of Off – an insect repellent that contains DEET. Dreyer said if parents permit it, the repellant will be applied by a school nurse to younger children and given to older children for self-application.

Dreyer also said she has been in e-mail contact with the superintendents from Gilford, Laconia, and Winnisquam about possible sporting events scheduled for Belmont that may have to be held earlier in the day or postponed to a day after a hard frost.

Fire Chief Dave Parenti said he was first notified about the West Nile Virus around 4 p.m. from the Code Enforcement/Health Officer Steve Paquin.

West Nile Virus and its evil cousin Eastern Equine Encephalitis are mosquito-borne illnesses that can infect humans. Although cases in humans are rare, an active infection can cause flu-like symptoms that usually appear four to 10 days after a bite. West Nile Virus can be lethal.

Susan Laverack at the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health said people should avoid being outside at dawn and at dusk. She recommends wearing long-sleeved clothing, long pants, and socks when outside.

She said the recommendations Dreyer made for Belmont's students are the same as what she would recommend for all residents.

Dreyer said the e-mail she sent to parents made a similar request about clothing.

"It's been warm lately so I know it hard for the little ones to understand," she said.