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Two Cases of West Nile Virus Identified in Mass. Residents

By Tom Marino | August 30, 2023
Last Updated: August 30, 2023

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced Tuesday the discovery of the first two cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) in Massachusetts this year.

DPH reports that one case is a man in his 40’s in Middlesex County, where the risk of WNV is classified as moderate. The second case is a woman in her 70’s who was exposed while traveling in another part of the country.

“This is the first time that West Nile virus infection has been identified in Massachusetts residents this year,” said Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein, MD, PhD. “August and September are the months when most people are exposed to West Nile virus in Massachusetts. Populations of mosquitoes that can carry and spread this virus are fairly large this year and we have seen recent increases in the number of WNV-positive mosquito samples from multiple parts of the Commonwealth.”

The risk of human infection with WNV is moderate in the Greater Boston area (Middlesex, Norfolk, and Suffolk counties), and in parts of Berkshire, Bristol, Hampden, Hampshire, Plymouth, and Worcester counties. There are no additional risk level changes indicated at this time.

Tips to Avoid Exposure to WNV

The Department of Public Health offers some guidance for residents to avoid exposure to WNV.

Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • When outdoors, apply Insect 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 product label instructions.
  • DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age 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.

Wear Appropriate Clothing to 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 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 unused flowerpots and wading pools and change the water in birdbaths frequently.

Install or Repair Screens

Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all windows and doors.

Protect Your Animals

  • Animal owners should reduce potential mosquito breeding sites on their property by eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires, and wading pools – especially after heavy rains.
  • Water troughs provide excellent mosquito breeding habitats and should be flushed out at least once a week during the summer months to reduce mosquitoes near paddock areas.
  • Horse owners should keep horses in indoor stalls at night to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. Owners should also speak with their veterinarian about mosquito repellents approved for use in animals and vaccinations to prevent WNV and Eastern Equine Encephalitis [EEE].
  • If an animal is suspected of having WNV or EEE, owners are required to report this to the Department of Agricultural Resources, Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795, and to the Department of Public Health by calling 617-983-6800.

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