First Massachusetts 2023 West Nile Virus Cases Confirmed

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State public health officials have noticed a recent uptick in the number of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus during what has been a very wet summer, they said last week, as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced the first two human cases of the virus in state residents this year.

State public health officials said a woman her 70s tested positive for the virus after being exposed to it in another part of the country and a man in his 40s was confirmed to have the virus after being exposed in Middlesex County, an area that the state said is “known to be at moderate risk” for the mosquito-borne illness.

“This is the first time that West Nile virus infection has been identified in Massachusetts residents this year,” state public health commissioner Dr. Robert Goldstein said. “August and September are the months when most people are exposed to West Nile virus in Massachusetts. Populations of mosquitoes that can carry and spread this virus are fairly large this year and we have seen recent increases in the number of WNV-positive mosquito samples from multiple parts of the Commonwealth.”

The department said it considers the current risk of human infection with West Nile virus to be moderate in the greater Boston area (Middlesex, Norfolk, and Suffolk counties) and in parts of Berkshire, Bristol, Hampden, Hampshire, Plymouth, and Worcester counties. Health officials recommend that people take steps to avoid mosquito bites, including applying insect repellent with DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535, wearing long sleeves, full-length pants and socks outdoors, and considering rescheduling outdoor activities that would occur from dusk to dawn, which are “peak biting times for many mosquitos.”

“We are coming to the unofficial end of summer but mosquitoes with West Nile virus will persist for several more months,” Dr. Catherine M. Brown, the state epidemiologist, said.

West Nile virus is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can infect people of all ages, but people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease, the state Department of Public Health said. Most people infected will have no symptoms, but effects generally include fever and flu-like illness. There were eight human cases of West Nile virus identified in Massachusetts last year. 


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