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West Nile Virus Detected in Cambridge Mosquitoes

September 13, 2007

State health officials reported yesterday that a mosquito pool in Cambridge tested had positive for West Nile virus. The mosquito pool was found on Meadow Way near Fresh Pond Parkway, just north of Mount Auburn Cemetery.

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

"The discovery of the West Nile virus-positive pools is not surprising,” said Sam Lipson, the director of environmental health for the Cambridge Public Health Department, noting that infected mosquitoes had also been found in Watertown (Mount Auburn Cemetery), Belmont, Medford, Boston, and Brookline.

Lipson believes the risk of West Nile virus infection is greatly reduced this year because of the lack of rainfall in August. "As a result of the late summer drought, the mosquito population in the Boston area has been relatively small, and the overall risk to the public from this mosquito-borne virus isn't considered to be significant."

Nonetheless, Lipson cautioned residents who spend time outdoors, especially those age 50 or older, to wear long-sleeved clothing or use mosquito repellent.

In addition to the positive mosquito pool in Cambridge, West Nile virus has been detected in birds and mosquitoes in 34 Massachusetts communities including: Watertown, Belmont, Medford, Boston, Revere, Brookline, Dedham Salem, Marblehead, Manchester, North Reading, and Swampscott. In total, 26 birds and 47 mosquito pools in Massachusetts have tested positive for the virus this year (as of September 12).
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has also reported one human case of West Nile virus.  On September 4, the state health officials announced that a 54-year-old Boston man had been diagnosed with West Nile virus. The man had spent several weeks in Montana before becoming ill, and state health officials believe he was most likely exposed to the virus in Montana (which has reported 37 human cases this year).

For current news about West Nile virus and prevention tips, visit the Cambridge Public Health Department's mosquito-borne disease web pages or join the Cambridge WNV listserv  to receive seasonal updates on West Nile virus.

Prevention Tips from the Cambridge Public Health Department:


  •  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. 
  •  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. 
  •  Adults and children (age two months and older) should use repellant with 25% to 30% DEET. Repellants with DEET should never be used on children under two months of age. After returning indoors, wash off repellent with soap and water. If repellent is applied to clothing, wash treated clothing before wearing again. 
  •  Alternatives to DEET include picaridin (a chemical repellent) and oil of lemon eucalyptus (a plant-based repellent). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin work better than other products. Studies have shown that oil of lemon eucalyptus, also known as PMD, works as well as low concentrations of DEET. Picaridin should not be used on children under two months old and oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under age 3. 
  •  When using repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub it on your child. Avoid your child's eyes and mouth, and use it sparingly around the ears. Remember to keep repellents out of reach of children. 
  •  When outdoors, cover your baby stroller or playpen with netting.



Suzy Feinberg, MPH
Public Information Officer

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