BOSTON (WWLP) – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has announced the detection of the first two human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) in the state this year.
Among the affected individuals, a woman in her 70s contracted the virus outside the state, while a man in his 40s was exposed to the virus in Middlesex County, an area previously identified as having a moderate risk.
Health officials are urging residents to exercise caution and adopt preventive measures to avoid mosquito bites. The risk of WNV infection is currently deemed moderate in the Greater Boston area (Middlesex, Norfolk, and Suffolk counties), as well as in specific parts of Berkshire, Bristol, Hampden, Hampshire, Plymouth, and Worcester counties. No additional changes in risk levels are indicated at present.
“This marks the initial occurrence of West Nile virus infection in Massachusetts residents this year,” stated Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein, MD, PhD. He emphasized that August and September typically witness the highest incidence of WNV exposure in the state. This year, populations of mosquitoes capable of transmitting the virus have surged, and there have been notable increases in the number of WNV-positive mosquito samples collected across various regions of the state.
Last year, Massachusetts recorded eight human cases of WNV infection. The virus is primarily transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. Although people of all age groups can be infected, individuals over the age of 50 are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms. The majority of WNV-infected individuals exhibit no symptoms, while those who do experience symptoms often suffer from fever and flu-like illness. Severe cases are rare but can occur.
“As we approach the unofficial end of summer, mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus will remain active for several more months,” remarked Dr. Catherine M. Brown, the State Epidemiologist. Dr. Brown advised adopting protective measures such as using an EPA-registered repellent, wearing appropriate clothing to minimize exposed skin, eliminating standing water, and repairing window screens. She also urged regular visits to the DPH’s mosquito-borne diseases web pages to stay updated on WNV activity.
Officials stress that individual actions are crucial in safeguarding personal health and that of loved ones from mosquito-borne illnesses.
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