The weather may be cooling off but state public health officials are warning that mosquito-borne illnesses are still a threat, after two more Massachusetts residents have been diagnosed with West Nile virus, bringing this season’s total to six.
The state Department of Public Health said Friday that a Middlesex County woman in her 50’s, and an Essex County woman in her 70’s were both recently infected. They said the older woman was hospitalized but has since shown “significant improvement.” The agency said the younger didn’t need to be hospitalized.
Disease trackers believe both patients were likely infected in those counties, where the risk for others to be infected is already considered to be at a moderate level.
“Even as cooler temperatures begin arriving in the state, the fact is that the threat of mosquito-borne illness will continue until the first hard overnight frost,” state public health veterinarian Dr. Catherine Brown, said in a statement.
“In the meantime, it’s vitally important that we continue taking common-sense precautions against mosquito bites,” Brown said. “Use insect repellant, cover up, and avoid outdoor activities at dusk and after nightfall when mosquitoes are at their most active.”
Last year, 33 cases of West Nile virus were detected in Massachusetts residents. While the virus can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease. Symptoms tend to include fever and flu-like illness. In rare cases, more severe illness can occur.
West Nile is the less dangerous of two viruses transmitted by mosquitoes that are now an unfortunate marker of summer’s end for Massachusetts residents. The state in late August announced that a Norfolk County woman in her 80s died of Eastern equine encephalitis, which last year killed three people in Massachusetts.