Newton's first human case of West Nile Virus this year was announced late Wednesday by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in collaboration with the city's Health and Human Services, according to a Health and Human Services press release.
The release states that the victim, a woman in her 50s, was briefly hospitalized but is now recovering at home. This is the state's fourth confirmed case of West Nile Virus this year.
"Mosquitoes with West Nile Virus have been detected in Newton since July," said Dori Zaleznik, the city's Health and Human Services commissioner. "We have been urging residents all summer to protect themselves against West Nile Virus, and this case only highlights the importance for us all to be vigilant about using insect repellent, minimizing outdoor activity between dusk and dawn, and practicing mosquito prevention at home."
"I especially encourage parents and coaches to make sure kids are protected when they're outside playing or participating in sports," Zaleznik said. "School starts next week, so I hope insect repellent is on everyone's back-to-school shopping list."
West Nile Virus is transmitted through mosquito bites, and can cause serious illness in some people, particularly the elderly. However, 80 percent of people who are infected with the virus have no symptoms, and another 20 percent have only mild, flu-like symptoms and recover.
Fewer than one percent of people infected with West Nile Virus will develop severe illness, including encephalitis or meningitis. The symptoms of severe illness can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, sleepiness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness, and paralysis, according to the press release.
Persons older than 50 years of age have a higher risk of developing severe illness.
"While there may be more cases of mosquito-borne illnesses this summer than in recent years, it is important for people to remember that there are actions you can take and this should not cause undue anxiety," said Zaleznik, a physician who specializes in infectious diseases.
The press release offers tips on avoiding mosquito bites:
- Apply insect repellent when outdoors: Use a repellent with DEET, permethrin, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 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 percent or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three 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 the 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:
- Drain standing water: Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water. 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-fitted screens on all of your windows and doors.
The City of Newton participates in the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project, which manages mosquito prevention and monitoring efforts. Catch basins, a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes, were treated earlier this summer, and regular monitoring of mosquito trap sites detected the virus in July. There are no plans for mass aerial spraying against adult mosquitoes in Newton at this time, Zaleznik said.
Additional information about West Nile Virus, mosquito repellents, and previous prevention announcements are available on the city website at www.newtonma.gov.