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Elderly woman diagnosed with first Mass. case of West Nile virus in 2022

The woman was exposed to the virus in Suffolk County.

The first West Nile virus case in Massachusetts was announced Thursday. (James Gathany/CDC via AP, File)

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced the first human case of West Nile virus in the state this year Thursday afternoon.

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The patient is a Boston woman in her 70s who was exposed to the virus in Suffolk County, the DPH said in a news release.

“August and September are the months when most cases of West Nile virus occur,” Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke said in the release.

“Although the significant drought conditions that exist across the Commonwealth have kept the populations of the Culex mosquito species that are most likely to spread WNV relatively small, today’s news is an important reminder that we all need to take steps to protect ourselves and our families from mosquito bites.”

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In 2021, 11 human cases of West Nile infection were identified in Massachusetts, the release said.

West Nile virus is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, according to the CDC. While the virus can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease.

Most infected patients have no symptoms, according to the CDC. When present, symptoms tend to include fever and flu-like illness. In rare cases, more severe illness can occur.

No human or animal cases of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), the other mosquito-borne illness monitored by the state, have been detected so far this year, the DPH said.

“People have an important role to play in protecting themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes.”

DPH tips for avoiding mosquito bites:

  • Use insect repellant when spending time outdoors
  • Don’t go outside from dusk to dawn, as these are peak hours when mosquitos bite
  • Wear long sleeves, pants, and socks to prevent mosquitos from being able to reach your skin
  • Drain still water from flower pots and other items around your home and change the water in birdbaths frequently to prevent mosquitos from breeding near your home
  • Install and repair screens on all windows and doors in your home

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