West Nile Virus Returns to State; Prevention The Best Defense From Illness

Photo: Mosquitoes with West Nile Virus have been detected in the state.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Thursday, July 7, that West Nile virus had been detected in mosquitoes in Massachusetts for the first time this year from three mosquito samples collected on July 1 in Worcester.

No human or animal cases of WNV or Eastern Equine Encephalitis have been detected so far this year. There is no elevated risk level or risk level change associated with this finding.

“This is an expected finding at this time of year and given the heat and dry conditions we have been experiencing, we are expecting to see more and more WNV activity,” said DPH State Epidemiologist Dr. Al DeMaria.

In 2015, there were 10 cases of WNV infection statewide. While WNV can infect people of all ages, people 50 and older are at higher risk for severe disease. Most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. When present, WNV symptoms tend to include fever and flu-like illness. In rare cases, more severe illness can occur.

People have an important role to play in protecting themselves from mosquitoes-borne illness.

Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • Apply insect repellent when outdoors. Use a repellent with an EPA-registered ingredient (DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] or IR3535) according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months and should be used in concentrations of 30 percent or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.
  • Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning in areas of high risk.
  • Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites. Wearing long-sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home

  • Drain Standing Water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.
  • Install or Repair Screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.

Protect Your Animals

  • Owners should also speak with their veterinarian about mosquito repellents approved for use in animals and vaccinations to prevent WNV and EEE. If an animal is suspected of having WNV or EEE, owners are required to report to DAR, Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795 and to the Department of Public Health (DPH) by calling 617-983-6800.

More information, including all WNV and EEE positive results, can be accessed from the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page or by calling the DPH Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.

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