The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) on Friday announced the first human case of West Nile virus (WNV) in the state this year. The patient is a resident of Middlesex County in his 60’s who was diagnosed with WNV by testing completed today by the Hinton State Laboratory Institute. The patient remains hospitalized, but is recovering.

West Nile virus
Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito/CDC

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

“We’re in our peak season for possible West Nile virus human infection,” said DPH State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Catherine Brown. “We need to continue to take steps to protect ourselves against mosquito bites by using insect repellant, covering up, and reducing outdoor activities at dusk and after nightfall when mosquitoes are at their most active.”

In 2013, eight cases of WNV were detected in Massachusetts residents. While WNV can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease. WNV is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.  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.

People have an important role to play in protecting themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes. This is done by avoiding mosquito bites, mosquito proofing their homes and protecting animals.