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West Nile Virus Found in Cambridge Mosquitoes

Residents urged to protect themselves from mosquitoes

September 16, 2011

State health officials reported on Sept. 15 that mosquitoes in Cambridge had tested positive for West Nile virus.  The mosquito sample was collected from a trap near Danehy Park.

"West Nile virus was reported in August in neighboring towns and in Boston so the discovery in Cambridge was not unexpected,” said Sam Lipson, director of environmental health for the Cambridge Public Health Department.

In addition to Cambridge, infected mosquitoes have been found in Watertown, Belmont, Arlington, Boston, Brookline, and Newton.

"Most human WNV infections are extremely mild," said Lipson, "but a small number of people become very sick.” People over 50 are at greatest risk for serious illness, especially those with weakened immune systems.

Lipson urged residents to protect themselves and their families from mosquito bites by:

  • Applying insect repellent and wearing protective clothing when outside during peak mosquito biting times (dusk to dawn).  Residents could also consider rescheduling outdoor activities that take place during this time.
  • Making sure that window and door screens fit tightly and are in good repair.

At this time, the Cambridge Public Health Department is not recommending citywide ground spraying.

"Serious questions remain about the effectiveness of ground spraying in densely built cities like Cambridge,” said Lipson. “Buildings often block the distribution of ultrafine spray from reaching areas of greatest activity, such as backyards.” 

Lipson added, however, that the city may consider limited spraying on athletic fields for nuisance control where youth sports may be impacted by heavy mosquito activity. 

This summer, the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project treated more than 6,000 storm drains in Cambridge with larvicide, which kills mosquito larvae before they can grow to adulthood.  Larvicide was also applied to several wetlands areas in the city.

State and county information about West Nile virus and reports of West Nile virus activity in Massachusetts can be found on the state health department website at www.mass.gov/dph/wnv

Recorded information about West Nile virus is also available by calling the MDPH Public Health Information Line at 1-866-MASS-WNV (1-866-627-7968).

For local West Nile virus updates, call the Cambridge Public Health Department at 617-665-3848 or visit www.cambridgepublichealth.org.


Suzy Feinberg, MPH
Public Information Officer

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