Massachusetts Raises Alert Level For Mosquitoes

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The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) raised the mosquito alert level from moderate to high in the cities and towns of New Bedford, Acushnet and Freetown. The decision was made after two mammal-biting mosquito species tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in New Bedford, and additional findings of EEE were found in mosquito samples in Raynham. Earlier this week, West Nile Virus (WNV) was found in mosquito samples from Westport.

"Southeastern Massachusetts is certainly our historical hotspot for EEE virus," said DPH State Epidemiologist Dr. Al DeMaria "We are expecting warm temperatures this weekend and early next week, so we urge people to protect themselves when they are outdoors. Personal protection is always the best line of defense."

There have only been 10 human cases of WNV in Massachusetts during the last five years. While WNV can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease. There was one human case of EEE during 2008; however there were 13 cases leading to six deaths from 2004 through 2006. EEE is a serious disease for people of all ages and can cause death. Both WNV and EEE are spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

Positive mosquito results from 2009 can be found on the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page at westnile.ashtonweb.com .

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

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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.

* Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites. Wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.

* 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.

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.

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