Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) would like to urge his constituents to remain vigilant against mosquitoes. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), a fourth human case of West Nile virus (WNV) has been confirmed in Massachusetts. As a result, DPH has raised the WNV threat level to “High” in Newton and to “Moderate” in Needham, Waltham, Wellesley and Weston. Health officials are also awaiting confirmation of six more probable human cases of WNV in Middlesex County, Hampden County and Essex County.
“The threat of mosquito-borne illnesses continues to rise throughout the Commonwealth,” said Senator Ross. “It is imperative that we take all necessary precautions to prevent mosquito bites and protect ourselves and our loved ones from these dangerous diseases.”
WNV-infected mosquitoes have been discovered in 93 communities from nine counties, thus far in 2012. Health officials are predicting that Massachusetts is on track to have the highest number of WNV-positive mosquito pools since 2000, when WNV was first seen in the state. Prior to today’s announcement, there have been three human cases of WNV in the Commonwealth: two in Middlesex County and one in Berkshire County. In 2011, there were six cases of WNV in Massachusetts residents and one in a horse.
WNV can infect people of all ages; however people over the age of 50 are at a higher risk for severe disease. WNV is typically transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. While most people infected with WNV do not experience symptoms, those symptoms ordinarily include fever and flu-like illness. In rare cases, a more severe illness can occur.
There are a variety of steps we can take to protect ourselves from illnesses caused by mosquitoes:
- Always apply insect repellent when outdoors. Look for 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, and follow all instructions on the product label. Please note that 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.
- Avoid peak mosquito hours, which occur from dusk to dawn.
- Wear long-sleeves, long pants and socks to keep mosquitoes from biting your skin.
- Drain or discard all items that hold water, including buckets, tires, unused flowerpots and wading pools. Check gutters and drains after heavy rain. Change water in birdbaths frequently. Flush out water troughs at least weekly.
- Drain or discard all items that hold water, as mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Check rain gutters and drains and ensure that any unused flowerpots and wading pools are empty. Change water in birdbaths frequently.
- Install or repair tightly-fitting screens on all windows and doors to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Protect your pets and speak with your veterinarian about mosquito repellants that are approved for use in animals, as well as vaccinations to prevent WNV and EEE. Horse owners should keep their horses in indoor stalls at night to reduce mosquito exposure. If an animal is diagnosed with WNV or EEE, owners must report to DAR, Division of Animal Health at (617) 626-1795 and to the Department of Public Health (DPH) at (617) 983-6800.
For more information, including all WNV and EEE positive results from 2012, please visit the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page at www.mass.gov/dph/wnv or call the DPH Epidemiology Program at (617) 983-6800. Please contact the office of Senator Ross with any questions or concerns at (617) 722-1555 or <a href="Richard.Ross@masenate.gov">Richard.Ross@masenate.gov</a>.