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Mosquito-borne virus risk increases

Now is ‘peak time’ for infections

By Deborah Kotz
Globe Staff / September 2, 2011

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The risk of being infected with mosquito-borne West Nile virus is now high in the New Bedford area, the state Department of Public Health announced yesterday. And mosquitoes infected with Eastern equine encephalitis virus have been detected in Dighton, increasing the risk of infections in that town and the surrounding area.

Increasing numbers of mosquitoes carrying West Nile and Eastern equine encephalitis have been detected in Southern Bristol County, and “historically, this is the peak time for occurrence of human infection,’’ Dr. Al DeMaria, the state epidemiologist, said in a statement.

There were seven human cases of West Nile Virus and one of Eastern equine encephalitis in Massachusetts residents last year.

“The recent hurricane did not reduce our concern, if anything it increased it, with the potential for more infected mosquitoes going into the cooler weather when people are perhaps not thinking so much about mosquito risk,’’ DeMaria said.

He is urging state residents to protect themselves by avoiding being outdoors during peak mosquito hours from dusk to dawn - or wearing protective clothing or insect repellent with DEET during those peak hours.

Residents should also drain any standing water left by the storm, where mosquitoes could lay eggs, and make sure screens in windows and doors fit tight, to help keep mosquitoes out of the home.

Deborah Kotz can be reached at DKotz@globe.com.