August 15, 2012
State health officials announced on Aug. 15 that a Cambridge resident in his 60’s had been diagnosed with West Nile virus. The man is currently hospitalized but is expected to make a full recovery. He is the first reported human case of West Nile virus this year in Massachusetts. Last year, six Commonwealth residents were diagnosed with the disease, which is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Please see the media advisory issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
This summer, mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus have been found in Arlington, Belmont, Brookline, Boston, and Newton.
Monitoring mosquitoes for West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis is the best way to gauge potential risk of infection to people and pets. Cambridge has a low risk of eastern equine encephalitis.
The greatest risk of West Nile virus infection is during late summer and fall before the first frost. In Massachusetts, the first frost usually occurs in early or mid-October.
Most people who get infected with West Nile virus have no symptoms and do not become sick. About 20% of infected people, however, experience mild sickness that may include fever, headache, and body aches. More severe illness is rare, especially among healthy adults under age 50. Severe infection may be marked by headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, tremors, muscle weakness, and paralysis.
If you think you have symptoms of West Nile virus, contact your doctor or nurse.
What You Can Do
You can protect yourself from West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis this summer and fall by avoiding getting bitten by mosquitoes. Here are some suggestions.
Make your home and yard safe:
1. Prevent mosquitoes from entering your home by making sure your window and door screens are in good repair and are tightly attached.
2. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water. Reduce mosquito breeding places in your yard by emptying, covering, or treating any items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty unused flower pots and buckets. Change the water in wading pools and birdbaths once a week.
3. When you can’t get rid of standing water by sweeping or other methods, please report the address or approximate location of the puddle or still water source to the appropriate city department:
Private property: Cambridge Public Health Department, 617-665-3826
Public property: (roads, parks): Cambridge Dept. of Public Works, 617-349-4800
Construction sites: Cambridge Inspectional Services, 617-349-6100
Protect yourself and your family
1. Wear long-sleeve shirts, loose pants, and socks if you spend time outdoors during peak mosquito biting times. Mosquito species found in Cambridge are most active in the early evening and nighttime.
2. If you are outdoors during peak mosquito biting times, apply a thin coat of insect repellant containing DEET or Picaridin to clothing and exposed skin. Read the instructions on the label carefully before using the product.
3. Adults and children (age two and older) should use repellant with 25% to 30% DEET. Repellants with DEET should never be used on children under age two. After returning indoors, wash off repellent with soap and water.
4. Alternatives to DEET include Picaridin (a chemical repellent), oil of lemon eucalyptus (a plant-based repellent), and 2% soybean oil. All have been found to provide good protection, though the natural oils are somewhat less effective and may need to be applied more often.
5. If a child develops a rash or other apparent allergic reaction from an insect repellent, stop using the repellent, wash it off with mild soap and water and call a local poison control center for further guidance.
6. Cover your baby stroller or outdoor playpen with netting.
For more information, please call the Environmental Health Unit at the Cambridge Public Health Department, 617-665-3848.
Suzy Feinberg, MPH
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