BOSTON – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced on July 1 that West Nile virus (WNV) has been detected in a mosquito in Massachusetts for the first time this year.
A WNV infection was confirmed by the State Laboratory Institute today in a mosquito sample, which was collected on June 25 in the Town of Whitman. No human cases of WNV or Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) have been detected so far this year.
WNV is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Thirty-three cases of WNV were detected in Massachusetts residents last year. While WNV can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease.
"Today's findings are a reminder of the importance of protecting ourselves and our families from the threat of mosquito-borne illness," DPH State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Catherine Brown said. "Make it a habit to apply bug spray before heading out or wear long sleeves or pants if weather permits, and head inside if you find you're getting bitten by mosquitoes."
Below are important steps families and individuals can take in protecting themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes:
• Avoid mosquito bites – 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 less than 2 months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30 percent or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children younger than 3 years of age.
• 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.
• Mosquito-proof your home by draining standing water where mosquitoes lay their eggs. 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.
More information is available on the DPH website: www.mass.gov/dph/mosquito
Information about WNV and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is also available by calling the Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.