September 12 2019

First 2019 Case of West Nile Virus in State Found in Middlesex County Man

By: Rich Hosford

The first case of West Nile Virus (WNV) of the year in the state has been detected in a man in Middlesex County. 


The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced on Thursday that the individual is a man in his 60s from Middlesex County who was hospitalized due to his illness. Despite this, DPH says the risk of human infection with WNV is considered to be generally low throughout the Commonwealth.


“We have not seen much West Nile virus activity this year,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “Still, today’s news is a compelling reminder that we all need to continue to take steps to protect ourselves and our families from mosquito bites.”


In 2018, there were 49 human cases of WNV infection identified in Massachusetts, DPH says. WNV is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. While WNV can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 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.


“While Massachusetts is seeing a very active season for another mosquito-borne disease, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), this is the first human case of WNV,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown. “We continue to strongly recommend personal precautions to reduce your risk of all mosquito-borne disease.”


As reported by BNEWS, mosquitos in Burlington were found to be carrying both West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis in samples collected on August 29. 


Additionally, on August 29 it was reported that a horse from Granby was infected with the EEE virus. The Department has now confirmed that this horse was stabled in Connecticut. As a result, the towns of Granby, Belchertown, Ludlow, Chicopee, South Hadley have all been reduced to moderate risk.


“People have an important role to play in protecting themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes,” DPH says.


Tips to Avoid Mosquito Bites:


- 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. If you are outdoors at any time and notice mosquitoes around you, take steps to avoid being bitten by moving indoors, covering up and/or wearing repellant.


- Clothing Can Help reduce mosquito bites. Although it may be difficult to do when it’s hot, wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.


- Apply Insect Repellent when you go outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.  Permethrin products are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear and should not be applied to skin. 


Mosquito-Proof Your Home:


- Drain Standing Water – Many mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or getting rid of 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 - Some mosquitoes like to come indoors. Keep them outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.


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