Two weeks ago, the school posted an announcement on the Healthy & Well page of the AOF website about a reported increase of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus in mosquitoes in some parts of Connecticut with some recommendations from the Farmington Valley Health District (FVHD) and the CDC on ways to help prevent the disease.
To date, only two human cases of the disease have been reported in CT, both in southeastern coastal towns. Last week, a mosquito tested positive for the EEE virus in South Windsor, a town across the CT river and about 45 minutes away from AOF. The mosquito that tested positive for the virus in South Windsor is one that, according to The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), only bites birds.
We have been monitoring the situation and have also consulted with Avon Public Schools and the FVHD. While there is still no direct threat in the Avon area, according to the FVHD, the school is making sure that all sports teams are finishing up practices well before dusk. Our Athletic Directors are also working with other schools to adjust the start times of some athletic competitions, as needed. This is being done in order to limit exposure to mosquitoes between dusk and dawn, as recommended by the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
As a reminder, the following are recommendations that come from the Center for Disease Control for the prevention of EEE:
Use insect repellent (DEET) - available at the Health Center, Athletic Trainers, Athletic Directors, and some coaches
Wear long sleeves and pants, especially between dusk and dawn
Minimize outdoor activity between dusk and dawn
Report any damaged window screens that may allow insects to enter a building
Avoid congregating near areas of standing water
Students and employees have been given this information as well. Although we are taking these precautionary measures, please remember that EEE is a very rare disease. In the US, approximately 5-10 human cases of EEE are reported annually. The virus is found in birds that live in fresh-water swamps and is generally found only in these birds and in mosquitoes that bite these birds, not people. “The good news is that as we continue to track and test mosquitoes throughout Connecticut, we are seeing a dramatic decrease in the number of mosquitoes testing positive for this virus as the cooler weather approaches" (Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicx).
We will continue to monitor the evolving situation and will provide updates as necessary. For more information about EEE please refer to this fact sheet (can we link this to the “fact sheet” provided by the Connecticut Department of Public Health. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Health Center.
EEEV (Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus)
AOF is aware of the reported increase of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in mosquitoes in CT and the one human case that was reported yesterday (9/16) in East Lyme. This is the first human case of EEE reported in CT since 2013 and the 2nd case ever reported in our state. It is thought that this person was bitten by a mosquito sometime the last week of August. According to Department of Public Health (DPH) 8 human cases have been reported in MA, which typically has a higher number of cases, and 1 has been reported in RI. EEEV has been detected in mosquitoes in several Connecticut towns, mostly in southeastern coastal towns.
EEE is a very rare disease that is caused by a virus spread by infected mosquitoes. In the US, approximately 5-10 EEE human cases are reported annually. Disease transmission does not occur directly from person to person. Severe cases of EEEV infection begin with sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting.
Mosquitoes that carry EEE breed and live in fresh water and fresh water marshes and more commonly cedar swamps. We do not have any of these in our area. No mosquitoes in our area have tested positive for EEE. According to the CT Department of Public Health, the cooler nights and shorter days mean that mosquitoes are much less active and that the risk of coming in contact with a mosquito that’s infected with this virus is going down every day.
There are no official recommendations from the Farmington Valley Health District for our area. However, DPH recommends that areas that have mosquitoes that have tested positive for EEE take the following precautions:
- Use insect repellent
- Wear long sleeves and pants, especially between dusk and dawn
- Minimize outdoor activity between dusk and dawn
- Avoid congregating near areas of standing water, empty standing water when possible
In an effort to be proactive, we have provided our Athletic Trainers and Athletic Directors with bug spray should anyone wish to use it. None of our sports teams are on the practice fields between dusk and dawn. We will continue to monitor the evolving situation and will provide updates as necessary. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Health Center.
We're committed to the whole-body/emotional health and well-being of each student at Avon Old Farms. Our Health Center is a place of comfort: our experienced and nurturing medical professionals are trained to heal, guide, and educate students. The Health Center is staffed with the following licensed care-givers:
- Six Registered Nurses that provide 24/7 nursing coverage while school is in session, either in the office or on call.
- A Medical Director, Dr. Mark Gilroy, a local pediatrician that comes to campus three times a week to see students for illness or injuries occurring at school or during school related activities.
- A Contracted School Counselor, Jeffrey Asmar (LCSW), provides confidential counseling for emotional well-being. This service is included in the cost of tuition. Parents/guardians who are interested in utilizing Jeffrey Asmar's services should contact him directly by calling 860-284-9434.
- A Part Time Psychiatrist, Dr. Lisa Karabelnik is available to all students. This service is not included in the cost of tuition. Parents/guardians who are interested in utilizing Dr. Karabelnick's services should first contact Jeffrey Asmar, LCSW directly by calling 860-284-9434.
The Health Center works in partnership with the Connecticut Childrens Medical Center in Hartford Connecticut and can make referrals to our medical doctor, clinical psychologist, or physical therapist.
DECRIMINALIZED BUT NOT BENIGN: THE HAZARDS OF MARIJUANA USE AMONG ADOLESCENT MALES
Laws in Connecticut regarding marijuana have recently changed with increased leniency for adult users. There is even more liberal legislature just 30 minutes to our north in Massachusetts. With these changes in legal outlook and (arguably) increased acceptance, what is the message being sent to the students at Avon Old Farms?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) takes a very clear stance on this subject: Marijuana is unsafe for adolescents. Approximately one in ten users of marijuana will become addicted. Yet, for users under age 18, that number increases to one in six. Even more concerning is the reality that marijuana use at a young age can result in negative and permanent impairment to brain development. The CDC confirms this, stating that “the drug may reduce attention, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions.” Simply put, teenagers have brains that are not fully developed, and marijuana use can cause serious and permanent harm. Though adolescents may appear from the outside as though they are grown adults, their developing brains remain susceptible to the damaging effects of marijuana.
Risks for teenage users of marijuana include:
Difficulty with problem solving, memory, and learning
Difficulty maintaining attention
Decline in academic performance
Increased risk for mental health issues
Data also links marijuana use to lower educational achievements and school dropouts.
THE POLICY AT AVON OLD FARMS
Avon Old Farms’s policies regarding marijuana align with the CDC’s findings and recommendations. The School’s response will represent a combination of support, treatment and discipline. With the always-present objective of protecting our students and guiding them towards success, there is a zero-tolerance policy regarding marijuana use. Possession of marijuana is considered a Level 2 violation, which would typically result in:
A meeting with the Headmaster and Dean to review the facts of the incident
A suspension from the school for no less than one week
A required substance abuse evaluation by a licensed counselor
Sign a No Use Contract
Forfeit any leadership roles
Of note, the sale and/or distribution of marijuana would be considered a Level 1 violation. In addition, the impact of the incident to the community is a determining factor as to the level of the violation. Either of these could require the student to appear before the School’s Disciplinary Committee where the student would be subject to potential dismissal from the school.
If a student is looking for help with quitting prior to his use of marijuana becoming a disciplinary issue, the Health Center staff, together with the School’s counselors, can provide assistance with getting students the resources and support they need to stop using marijuana. This information will remain confidential unless the student is at risk to himself or others. In circumstances where the student or the health of the community is at risk, the Dean of Students office may be notified in order to keep the student and school safe.
As a School, it is our responsibility to provide our students with information to empower them to make healthy decisions in their lives. As such, we developed the co-curricular Prep4ward program to educate our students about marijuana and other important health risks facing adolescents today. With good information about issues that may immediately affect them, our students will be better prepared to make healthy choices in order to achieve both short-term and long-term success.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018). Marijuana and Public Health. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/health-effects.html
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Avon Old Farms School Health Center