Niles Community Schools responds to mosquito-borne virus concerns
NILES, Mich.—Niles Community Schools said Friday that it is working to prevent exposure of the rare mosquito-borne Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus.
The schools have adjusted upcoming activities in response, rescheduling or canceling outdoor activities occurring at or after dusk.
The Niles High School varsity football homecoming game on September 20 has been rescheduled to 5:30 p.m.
Parents will also have the option of keeping their students home during upcoming field trips or outdoor activities.
It’s the homecoming game for Niles High school and they just want everyone to enjoy the festivities without being scared of the EEE virus. That’s why the game is an hour and a half earlier. And that’s why their website has a page to educate parents.
“Going from your car inside, you’re exposed every single moment. In your care. In your home,” Tammy Kelley, one parent, said.
There are seven known cases of the EEE virus in Michigan and three of those people have died.
At least one of the cases has been in Berrien County.
“It’s scary,” Kelley said. “I have grandchildren who live here in Niles also so make sure they are in before it’s dark and even when they’re out after school. I’m making sure they are all covered up and they have bug spray on.”
It’s something many do not take lightly.
Tracy Hertsel, Director of Student Support at Niles Community Schools said that’s why they are taking precautions.
“We did alter our game tonight. It was supposed to start at 7, but it will be starting at 5:30 tonight,” Herstel said.
That’s because of a Berrien County Health Department recommendation to get children inside before dusk.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea that they did this. They jumped on it right away,” Kelley said.
“I totally appreciate them setting it at an earlier time frame so we can try to get the game done and over before it gets to be a bad time for the mosquitos,” Darla Schneider, one parent, said.
Besides making the game earlier, Herstel said he was on the field yesterday monitoring at-risk areas.
“We spent quite a bit of time out there just making sure there were no areas of concern,” Herstel said.
The school district is also educating parents about the risks online and on their phones.
“We also went out with what’s called an instant alert which goes out to everyone parent whether, in text form, voicemail or an actual email just to point them to the website and give them the links so they can access that themselves,” Herstel said.
For Kelley, education is important.
“Parents need to take it seriously and that’s a big concern of mine that it is a real thing,” she said.
Remember that if you are outside at night to wear long sleeves and pants and make sure to put on lots of bug spray containing Deet.
The school will not be handing it out, so bring your own.