The Cambridge Public Health Department leads the city's response to the risks posed by West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.
West Nile virus was first detected in birds and mosquitoes in Massachusetts in 2000. Starting that year, Cambridge established a phased response to the threat of West Nile virus that emphasizes reduction of mosquito breeding habitats (e.g., wading pools, old tires, clogged rain gutters), personal protection, and education.
The public health department works closely with the city's Department of Public Works and Inspectional Services Department to reduce mosquito-borne risk during the mosquito season (May through early November).
The use of mosquito larvicides—which stops mosquitoes from maturing to adulthood—is generally considered more effective than spraying for adult mosquitoes. Cambridge larviciding activities include:
Every summer, the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project (through an agreement with the City of Cambridge), treats the city’s municipal storm drains with larvicide.
The East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project applies hand-held non-chemical larvicide to treat areas that are considered prime habitats for mosquito breeding. The treated areas typically include the Fresh Pond Reservation, Danehy Park, the Fresh Pond Golf Course, Magazine Beach, and the wetland areas along the Little River near the Alewife Brook.
Harvard and MIT are responsible for treating all storm drains on their respective properties with a larvicidal agent. The City of Cambridge coordinates with both universities to make sure that storm drain treatment is completed in a timely manner.
Public Information about WNV in Cambridge
The Cambridge Public Health Department's West Nile virus web pages information about mosquito-borne illnesses, including news updates, disease fact sheets, prevention tips, and links to relevant state and national public health agencies.
The Cambridge Public Health Department maintains an e-mail list to deliver periodic updates about West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis to subscribers. The WNV Listserv is a service available to all community members. Please type “subscribe” in subject header when requesting to be put on this list.
The Cambridge Public Health Department assists the Cambridge Public Schools in communicating with parents and establishing an appropriate policy for outdoor athletic events that are held from late August until early October, or the first frost (periods of heightened risk).
Eliminating Stagnant Water
The Cambridge Public Health Department, the Department of Public Works, and the Inspectional Services Department respond to calls reporting stagnant water and other potential mosquito habitats on private and public property. The division of responsibilities for responding to these calls is as follows: DPW is charged with addressing standing water on public property, Inspectional Services is responsible for standing water on construction sites and commercial property, and the public health department follows up on calls about standing water on private property.
Revised on July 11, 2014
For general questions about West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis, please call 617-665-3838.
STATE RESPONSE PLAN
To learn more about how state monitors trends in West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis activity, diagnoses the virus in people and animals, and works to reduce risk of human infection, see the 2015 Massachusetts Arbovirus Surveillance and Response Plan (PDF).