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Teams guard vs. risk of mosquitoes

NORTH ANDOVER -- Football pads weren't the only layer of protection players wore yesterday at North Andover High School.

Athletes in both huddles also were encouraged to don insect repellent and long sleeves to guard against mosquito bites.

With the state reporting outbreaks of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis, North Andover moved its game against Silver Lake High School from Friday night to yesterday afternoon to limit players and spectators' exposure to mosquitoes.

''I think it's a smart move. We don't want mosquito bites killing people," Debbie Perez said as she watched her son, Eric, a North Andover wide receiver, warm up before the game.

The precautions were nothing new to the visiting team from Kingston, where an 83-year-old man died last month after he became infected with EEE.

Governor Mitt Romney issued a public health alert on Friday to warn residents to take precautions against mosquito bites.

The Department of Public Health confirmed this month that a 33-year-old Boston woman and a 56-year-old Newton woman are the state's first two cases of West Nile virus since 2003. The Boston woman recovered after five days in the hospital, while the Newton woman remained hospitalized.

Also this year, the state has confirmed four human cases of EEE, all in the same general geographic area of the state, including the fatal case. The virus also killed a 5-year-old girl from Halifax, and a fatality has also been reported in New Hampshire.

Public health officials said the threat isn't expected to pass until the first frost kills the mosquitoes.

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