BOSTON (WWLP) – An alpaca from eastern Massachusetts has been identified as the first animal case of West Nile Virus in the state this year.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health says the alpaca was exposed to the virus in Middlesex County. With both human and now animal West Nile Virus cases in eastern Massachusetts, the risk level for the virus has been raised from moderate to high in the Boston area. Central Hampden County remains at moderate risk level.

“September is the month when we are most likely to see people get infected with West Nile virus,” said Acting Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke. “While we advise everyone to take steps to avoid mosquito bites, this is especially important if you are over the age of 50 or have an immune compromising condition. It is also important to know that as overnight temperatures get cooler, mosquito activity right around dusk and dawn may be more intense.”

So far this year, four human West Nile Virus cases have been identified in Middlesex County. West Nile Virus can infect people of all ages, but people over the age of 50 are at a higher risk. West Nile Virus symptoms include fever, flu-like illness and in some rare cases, more severe illness can occur.

There are several things you can do to reduce your chances of getting bit by a mosquito:

  • Apply insect repellent when outdoors
  • Reduce your time outside during peak mosquito hours, from dusk to dawn
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks outdoors
  • Drain any standing water in your yard where mosquitos are likely to breed
  • Make sure screens are secure and repair any holes

There were a total of five human cases in Massachusetts in 2020. No deaths have been associated to West Nile Virus this year.