West Nile Virus Spreading in Mosquitoes in Massachusetts

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Same strain of West Nile Virus bacteria has been found in patients from several states. Source has not been identified, but illnesses may be linked to consumption of beef products.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced today that West Nile Virus (WNV) has been found in mosquitoes in the communities of Merrimac, Abington, Worcester, Springfield, Chicopee, Fall River, Somerset and Dedham. West Nile Virus has also been found in a blue jay in Boston.

“We are now finding WNV in the greater Boston area, and southeastern and western Massachusetts consistently,” said DPH State Epidemiologist Dr. Al DeMaria. “People should consider the virus as being established in these areas for the summer. In addition, we are continuing to find virus in new areas; the warm, wet summer is continuing to support mosquito populations and allowing the virus to spread.”

In 2007, there were six human cases of West Nile Virus in Massachusetts. While WNV can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease. WNV is usually spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

Click here to find lists of all West Nile Virus positive bird and mosquito results from 2008.

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.
Report Dead Birds

Dead crows or blue jays may be a sign that West Nile Virus is circulating among the birds and mosquitoes in your area. Call 1-866-MASS WNV to report a dead bird. By reporting dead birds, you can play an important role in monitoring WNV.
More information is available on the DPH website: www.mass.gov/dph/wnv. Information about West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is also available by calling the DPH recorded information line at 1-866-MASS-WNV (1-866-627-7968), or the Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.

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