State Health Officials Confirm Third Case of West Nile Virus in the Commonwealth; First in Berkshire County
Risk Levels Raised in Several Communities for EEE and WNV
BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced that a human case of West Nile virus (WNV) has been confirmed in Berkshire County. The patient, a woman in her 70s, is currently hospitalized and is expected to be released soon. This is the third human case of WNV this year in the Commonwealth. In response, risk levels will be raised to "Moderate" for the towns of Dalton, Hancock, Lanesborough, Lenox, Richmond and Washington. The risk level in the City of Pittsfield will be raised to "High" to account for previous WNV findings earlier this season.
DPH also announced the detection of a second mammal-biting mosquito pool infected with Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in Kingston. Based on the finding of an additional pool, health officials have raised the EEE threat level to "High" in Kingston. DPH also will raise the Town of Plympton to a "Critical" risk level based on additional information regarding the location of the previously detected alpaca with EEE.
"With the third human case of WNV virus in the Commonwealth, it is imperative that people take the simple precautions necessary to protect themselves from illness. These findings underscore the serious need to use personal protective measures at all times," said DPH Commissioner John Auerbach. "Use insect repellant, cover up exposed skin, and avoid outdoor activities at dusk and nighttime, when mosquitoes are at their most active."
Health officials strongly recommend that communities designated at High or Critical risk for EEE should curtail outdoor evening events for the remainder of the mosquito season. A High risk level for WNV does not trigger the same recommendation. Ground-based spraying by mosquito control projects is ongoing and will be enhanced.
WNV infected mosquitoes have been found in 83 communities from nine counties so far during 2012. There were six cases of WNV in Massachusetts residents and one in a horse last year. While WNV can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease. WNV is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. 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.
EEE infected mosquitoes have been found in 33 communities from nine counties so far during 2012. There were two cases of EEE in August of last year acquired in Massachusetts, including a fatal case in a Bristol County man. EEE activity in both 2010 and 2011 raised public concern and prompted DPH to work with a panel of experts to evaluate and enhance the state’s surveillance and response program. EEE is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. EEE is a serious disease in all ages and can even cause death.
People have an important role to play in protecting themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes:
Avoid Mosquito Bites
- Apply Insect Repellent when Outdoors. Use a repellent with 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 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.
- 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.
- 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
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. If an animal is diagnosed with 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 from 2012, can be found on the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page at www.mass.gov/dph/wnv or by calling the DPH Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800. The findings of the DPH Eastern Equine Encephalitis Expert Panel can be found here:
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