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Woman in her 80s becomes fifth West Nile virus case in Mass. this year

The woman was likely infected in Middlesex County.

A woman in her 80s has become the fifth case of West Nile virus in Massachusetts this year, the Department of Public Health (DPH) announced Monday.

The DPH said in a news release that the woman was likely exposed in an area of Middlesex County that is already known to pose an increased risk of infection, though officials did not identify where that area is.

People in the Greater Boston area currently have a moderate to high risk of contracting West Nile virus, the DPH said. The risk will continue until the first hard frost.

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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.

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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.

On Aug. 25, an elderly woman likely infected in Suffolk County became the first West Nile virus case in the state this year. The next case came a week later and was also in Suffolk County, and the third case was identified just four days after that in the same county.

The fourth case, which was the first to be identified outside Suffolk County, was identified in Middlesex County just two days after the third case.

Last year, 11 people contracted West Nile virus in Massachusetts, the DPH said.

So far, it said, no human or animal cases of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), the other mosquito-borne illness the state monitors, have been detected this year in Massachusetts.

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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