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West Nile Virus detected in Newton mosquitoes

Posted by Laura Franzini  July 19, 2012 02:55 PM

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West Nile Virus has been detected in two Newton mosquito pools, city health officials announced today.

There have been no reports of human infection in Massachusetts so far this year, according to a press release from Newton's Health and Human Services Department.

The mosquitoes were trapped in Oak Hill and Newton Centre, but residents should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites regardless of where they live, the release said.

“This was not a surprise given the West Nile Virus positive samples collected in West Roxbury and Roslindale over the past few weeks,” said Dori Zaleznik, Newton’s Health and Human Services Commissioner. “We know the virus is here, and it is important for people to take precautions like using mosquito repellent and limiting outdoor activities between dusk and dawn.”

West Nile Virus is most commonly transmitted to humans by the bite of a mosquito infected with the virus. While the virus can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe infection. Last year a Newton resident in his 50s was hospitalized with West Nile Virus infection, the press release said.

“Most people who get West Nile Virus have a mild flu-like illness or do not experience symptoms at all,” Zaleznik said. “But it can cause severe disease, including high fever, headache, stiff neck and even disorientation or coma in some people.”

Spraying is planned for southeastern Massachusetts this weekend to decrease the population of a different kind of mosquito that can become infected with the virus that causes Eastern Equine encephalitis (EEE), a much more serious mosquito-borne infection. The EEE virus is most often identified in mosquitoes found in and around freshwater, hardwood swamps.

“Those kinds of swamps aren’t in Newton or its surrounding communities, so the risk of EEE is low here,” Zaleznik said. “For that reason, there are no plans to spray for mosquitoes in Newton.”

Newton’s efforts to address mosquito-borne illness are to treat catch basins where mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus develop and to regularly trap and test mosquitoes to monitor the presence of West Nile in the community. Newton participates in the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project.

The Health and Human Services Department offered a few, common-sense precautions people can take to protect themselves from mosquito-borne infections:

Avoid Mosquito Bites
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. Otherwise, take extra care to use repellent and protective clothing.
Clothing Can Help reduce mosquito bites. Although it may be difficult to do when it’s hot, wearing long-sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
Apply Insect Repellent when you go outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age. Permethrin products are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets, and camping gear and should not be applied to skin.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home
Drain Standing Water - Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to develop by either draining or getting rid of 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 - Some mosquitoes like to come indoors. Keep them outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.

Information about WNV and reports of WNV activity in Massachusetts during 2012 can be found on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website at http://www.mass.gov/dph/wnv.

Recorded information about WNV is also available by calling the MDPH Public Health Information Line at 1-866-MASS-WNV (1-866-627-7968).

Additional information is available by calling the City of Newton Health & Human Services Department at 617-796-1420 or visiting www.newtonma.gov.

Laura Franzini can be reached at laura.franzini@globe.com.

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