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Mosquitoes Infiltrate Institute Dormitories

By Brett Altschul

The cooler weather at the end of this week may end the mosquito problem on campus that has caused students in dormitories to voice complaints and prompted various reactions by the administration.

Several dormitories on the west side of campus, including MacGregor House and Burton-Conner House, have experienced significant problems with mosquitoes this year.

"They're really annoying," said Misha K. Hill '98, a resident of Baker House. "I don't know where they're coming from, and if somebody does, I wish they would do something about it."

The current problem with mosquitoes in the northeast has been severe enough to earn the attention of such magazines as Time and Newsweek.

In one extreme incident, the Campus Police transported a student to and from the Medical Center to be treated for mosquito bites.

No danger of infection

However, there is no danger of any kind of infection from the mosquitoes, according to Charles Lutes of Lutes Environmental, MIT's exterminator for the dormitories.

No harmful germs have been found in this species, the culex mosquito, or northern house mosquito, Lutes said. "The risk is absolutely minimal."

The mosquito problem did not seem too severe, since not that many people complained, but it was clear that a problem existed, said Kenneth Donaghey, the house manager for Burton-Conner.

"I think that three [students] asked me about it," Donaghey said.

After the complaints, Donaghey called Lutes Environmental. "They'd already gotten calls from other dormitories," Donaghey said.

It was more of a city problem than an MIT problem, Donaghey said. "A lot of mosquitoes just happened to hatch in the area," he said.

Exterminator researches problem

Lutes said that he is currently researching the problem. After hearing from MIT, Lutes contacted Cambridge and Massachusetts health agencies and an entomologist with whom he works.

Adequate use of window screens should solve the problem in the dormitories, Lutes said. In any case, there are too many people living in the dormitories to use any kind of chemical treatment inside.

"There was no spraying in the dormitory," Donaghey said.

Outside, chemical solutions are not viable either, Lutes said. The primary preventative measure is making sure that there is no standing water where mosquito larvae can develop.

The other main action is research, Lutes said. "We took samples of mosquitoes and eggs, and we're having them analyzed."

So far, the city of Cambridge has not officially commented on the situation, Lutes said. "However, I talked to a person in public health, and they told me that there is an outbreak all over the city."

"I've been doing this with MIT for about five years," Lutes said, "and I've never seen this problem exactly like this."

Apparently, the conditions this year were very favorable for mosquitoes, Lutes said. "Sometimes, the circumstances just happen that way," he said.

Lutes added that the entire mosquito problem should definitely go away once the temperature drops below freezing.

That will kill mosquitoes both outside and inside, since mosquitoes die off when there is not enough light during the day, Lutes said.