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Press Release State health officials announce season's first human case of West Nile virus in Massachusetts

Residents urged to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites
For immediate release:
8/07/2020
  • Department of Public Health

Media Contact for State health officials announce season's first human case of West Nile virus in Massachusetts

Omar Cabrera, Manager of Ethnic Media and Community Outreach

BostonThe Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced the first human case of West Nile virus (WNV) in the state this year. The individual is a man in his 50s who was likely exposed to the virus in southwestern Essex County or eastern Middlesex County. The risk of human infection with WNV is considered to be generally low throughout the Commonwealth.

“This is the first time that West Nile virus infection has been identified in a person in Massachusetts this year,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “Today’s news reminds us of the ongoing need to take precautions against mosquito bites to protect ourselves and our families.”

In 2019, there were five human cases of WNV infection identified in Massachusetts. 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.

Information about current mosquito activity will continue to be updated regularly and can be found here.

People have an important role to play in protecting themselves from illnesses caused by mosquitoes. DPH recommends the following precautions.

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. Wear long-sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors to 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 draining or discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.

Install or Repair Screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on 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 EEE. 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 DPH by calling 617-983-6800.

Information including all West Nile virus and EEE positive results can be found on the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page or by calling the DPH Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.

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Media Contact for State health officials announce season's first human case of West Nile virus in Massachusetts

Department of Public Health 

DPH promotes the health and well-being of all residents by ensuring access to high-quality public health and healthcare services, and by focusing on prevention, wellness, and health equity in all people.
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