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West Nile Virus Detected in Boston-Area Mosquitoes

August 28, 2006

The Massachusetts Public Health Department reported on August 25 that three collections of mosquitoes collected in Belmont tested positive for West Nile virus. Earlier this month, West Nile virus was also detected in mosquitoes collected in Boston, Newton, Melrose, Reading, Nahant, Haverhill, Needham, and Saugus. No positive mosquitoes have been found in Cambridge.

Monitoring mosquitoes for West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis is the best way to gauge potential risk of infection to people and pets.

No Massachusetts residents have been diagnosed with West Nile virus this year. Remember, however, that the greatest risk of infection is during late summer and fall (until 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. Consider wearing 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. Cover your baby stroller or outdoor playpen with netting.

How to report a dead bird

  1. To report a dead bird on public property, call Cambridge Animal Control, 349-4376 (days), or Cambridge Department of Public Works, 349-4800 (nights/weekends).
  2. A dead bird found on private property should be disposed of by the owner or management. Rubber gloves should be worn when handling bird carcasses.

For more information, please call the Environmental Health Unit at the Cambridge Public Health Department, 617-665-3838.


Suzy Feinberg, MPH
Public Information Officer

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