First West Nile virus case of the year reported in Massachusetts

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The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced the first human case of West Nile virus (WNV) in the state this year. The patient is a resident of Middlesex County in her 70’s who was diagnosed with WNV through testing completed today by the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory. The patient remains hospitalized.

Culex quinquefasciatus/CDC
Culex quinquefasciatus/CDC

DPH is conducting an epidemiological investigation to determine where the individual was most likely exposed to infected mosquitoes. Assessment of WNV risk areas will depend on the findings of this investigation.

“This is peak season in Massachusetts for possible West Nile virus infection in humans,” said DPH State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Catherine Brown. “The high temperatures and drought conditions that we’ve seen are resulting in elevated populations of the type of mosquitoes that are most likely to spread WNV. That’s why it is more important than ever to take steps to avoid mosquito bites by using repellents, covering up to reduce exposed skin, dumping standing water around the house and moving indoors at dusk when mosquito activity reaches its peak.”

In 2015, there were ten human cases of WNV infection identified in Massachusetts. WNV is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. While WNV can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease. Most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. When present, WNV symptoms tend to include fever and flu-like illness. In rare cases, more severe illness can occur.

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