With the start of Labor Day and the unofficial end of the summer, officials are warning the public of the risks posed by the mosquito, a summer hassle, but also a vector for the West Nile virus and other diseases.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced the fourth human case of West Nile virus this year, a woman in her 50s from Middlesex County who was not hospitalized because of her illness. Three more cases were reported on 24th August.
In early August, a horse had to be euthanized in Worcester and an alpaca in Milford because the response to the West Nile was so strong, the state said.
Public health officials increased the risk for West Nile from moderately high to 1
"Several people in the same area have developed the West Nile virus," said Drs. Monica Bharel, state health department, in a statement. "This means there is an increased risk in this specific area and additional people could be infected."
As of Wednesday, 363 mosquito samples from a dozen counties tested positive for West Nile. It has been quiet in Essex County so far, with only two positive samples reported until August 24th: July 17 in Lynnfield and August 13 in Newbury.
"It is extremely important for people to take action to avoid mosquito bites, including repellents, wear clothes to reduce exposed skin, empty stagnant water, and move indoors if you notice mosquitoes biting you" said epidemiologist dr. Catherine Brown in a statement Monday.
There have been no reported cases of Eastern Encephalitis in humans, a more deadly mosquito-borne virus, and no evidence of EEE in mosquitoes from across the state.
Traditionally, the West Nile virus has thrived in urban environments. Mosquito species (the main carrier of the virus) breed in the dirty, shallow water of catch basins, old tires, empty plastic containers, and other man-made objects that contain dirty, shallow water.
"This year we have … We find [WNV samples] everywhere we look," said Brown. "It's a different pattern than we're used to seeing."
As always, experts believe that the numbers depend on the weather, in this case a hot summer with significant rainfall.
"Heat really pulls the virus," said Brian Farless, superintendent of both the Suffolk County and East Middlesex Mosquito Control projects, which handle about 100,000 catch basins to control the population in 28 communities including Boston.
Brown was confident that there would still be no EEE results, a continuation of a historical trend of EHA's thawing. In 2012, there were seven cases of human electrical and electronic equipment, since 2013 no more cases of people.
In 2017, six cases of West Nile virus were detected in Massachusetts.
West Nile virus can infect humans of all ages, but people over 50 are at greater risk of serious illness, according to health officials. Symptoms include fever and flu-like illnesses, but in rare cases, more serious illnesses can occur. Most infected people have no symptoms.
To prevent infection, authorities recommend using mosquito repellent with an EPA-registered ingredient; be aware of the main mosquito activity from dusk to dawn; and wear long sleeves, pants and socks.
You can also use gutters, flowerpots, etc. Change the water in the bird baths; and install / repair window screens. For more information, visit mass.gov/dph/mosquito or call +1 617-983-6800
"In my view, it's like 10 degrees Celsius in winter, you put on coat and hat, To prevent frostbite, "said John Morris, public health chief at Amesbury and Salisbury and chairman of the Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control and Wetlands Management District. "In the summer you have to protect yourself in another way."
David Rattigan can be reached at [email protected]