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Cambridge Resident Diagnosed with West Nile Virus

Risk level is "high" in Cambridge

August 31, 2018

The Cambridge Public Health Department announced today that a Cambridge resident has been diagnosed with West Nile virus.  
The resident, a woman in her 60s, became ill at the end of July and was never hospitalized. State health officials believe it is likely that the resident acquired West Nile virus from infected mosquitoes in the Cambridge area. She is among the four human cases of West Nile virus reported in Massachusetts so far this year.
On Aug. 27, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health raised the risk of West Nile virus infection to “high” in Cambridge and 10 other communities: Arlington, Boston, Belmont, Brookline, Chelsea, Everett, Medford, Newton, Somerville, and Watertown. The “high risk” designation was based on investigations indicating that at least two of the Massachusetts cases were infected in the Greater Boston area.

“This is peak season for West Nile virus infection,” said Claude Jacob, chief public health officer and director of the Cambridge Public Health Department. “We urge residents to protect themselves against mosquito bites by using repellents, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants in the evening hours, and moving indoors if mosquitoes are biting you.”
Most human West Nile virus infections are mild with no symptoms, but a small number of people become very sick with encephalitis or meningitis. For those who have symptoms, they include fever and flu-like illness. More severe symptoms include 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.
“People over 50 and those with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk for severe illness, and should consider curtailing outdoor activities after dusk and in the very early morning hours,” said Jacob.
The risk of West Nile virus infection in Massachusetts remains until the first hard frost.
The easiest and best way to prevent West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites. Some tips: 
  • Apply insect repellant when outdoors. Use insect repellant containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Follow the directions on the package. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.
  • Be aware of peak mosquito hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning.
  • Clothing can help reduce mosquito bites. Wearing long-sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
  • Get rid of mosquito breeding sites in your yard. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water. Empty standing water from flower pots, buckets, barrels, and children’s pools. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out.
  • Make sure that window and door screens fit tightly and are in good condition.
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/mosquito.
For local West Nile virus updates and prevention tips, call the Cambridge Public Health Department at 617-665-3838 or visit http://www.cambridgepublichealth.org/services/environmental-health/mosquito-borne-diseases/west-nile-virus.php.

Suzy Feinberg, MPH
Public Information Officer

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