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Second Cambridge Resident Diagnosed with West Nile Virus

August 23, 2012

State health officials reported today that a second Cambridge resident has been diagnosed with West Nile virus. The patient, a man in his 70s, is currently hospitalized.

The state’s first human case of West Nile virus this year was confirmed in another Cambridge resident on August 15.  This resident, a man in his 60s, is recovering.

West Nile virus is a disease that can only be transmitted to people by the bite of an infected mosquito.

As of August 23, West Nile virus has been detected in mosquitoes in Cambridge (three positive pools) and neighboring municipalities, including Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Newton, and Watertown.

In addition to the elevated threat level in Cambridge, the nearby communities of Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Somerville and Watertown have been raised to a “high” threat level for West Nile virus.

“We urge residents to be vigilant about avoiding mosquito bites and removing stagnant water near their homes,” said Claude Jacob, the city’s Chief Public Health Officer and director of the Cambridge Public Health Department.

“Our department has been working with city and community partners to inform residents about the increased risk of West Nile virus this summer. We’re also working with the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project and city departments to reduce mosquito breeding grounds,” Jacob said.

Jacob added that the Cambridge Public Health Department has developed flyers and fact sheets in multiple languages on preventing mosquito-borne illnesses. These materials have been widely distributed to city departments and community organizations, and are available at www.cambridgepublichealth.org or go directly to the department's West Nile virus web page.

In addition, signs on avoiding mosquito bites will be posted in athletic fields, as well as the city's golf course and larger parks that are frequented in the evening.

The easiest and best way to avoid West Nile virus is to prevent mosquito bites. Here are some tips from the Cambridge Public Health Department:

  • When you are outdoors, use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Follow the directions on the package.
  • The mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus are most active in the evening and at night. Be sure to use insect repellent, and wear long sleeves and pants at these times or consider staying indoors during these hours.
  • Make sure you have good screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.
  • Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets and barrels. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out.
  • Keep children's wading pools empty and on their sides when they aren't being used.

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.  A small number of people—less than 1% of those infected—do develop severe illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis. People over age 50 have a higher risk of developing severe illness. Severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, stiff neck, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.

If you think you have symptoms of West Nile virus, contact your doctor or nurse.

For news and information on West Nile virus and other diseases spread by mosquitoes, visit the Cambridge Public Health Department's West Nile virus web page.

National information is available at www.cdc.gov/westnile. More information on choosing and using repellents safely is included in the MDPH Mosquito Repellents fact sheet, which can be viewed online at www.mass.gov/dph/wnv.

If you have questions or concerns about West Nile virus or standing water, please contact the Cambridge Public Health Department’s Environmental Health Division at 617-665-3801 or contact Environmental Health staff at mginieres@challiance.org.

This news release was modified on August 24, 2012


Suzy Feinberg, MPH
Public Information Officer

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