Tuesday, July 14, 2020 - The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) announced today that West Nile Virus (WNV) has been detected in mosquitoes in Boston for the first time this year. The presence of WNV was confirmed today by the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory in a mosquito sample collected on July 9, 2020 in Brighton. No human or animal cases of WNV or Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) have been detected so far this year in the City of Boston. Although there is no elevated risk level or risk-level change associated with this finding, BPHC advises residents to prevent mosquito bites and to mosquito-proof their homes.
“While much of the attention right now is on the COVID-19 pandemic and slowing the spread of this virus, we cannot lose sight of the importance of protecting ourselves against mosquito bites and the serious diseases they may carry,” said Boston Public Health Commission Interim Executive Director Rita Nieves. “I encourage everyone to take the precautions necessary as they spend more time outdoors.”
West Nile Virus (WNV) is a rare but serious disease most often spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has no data to suggest that COVID-19 is spread by mosquitoes or ticks. The main way that COVID-19 spreads is from person to person.
WNV has been detected in Boston mosquitoes during the summer and fall months (June – November) every year since 2000, but WNV in people is rare. In 2019, there were no human cases of WNV infection diagnosed in Boston residents. In 2018, there were seven human cases of WNV infection diagnosed in Boston residents.
“It is typical to find West Nile Virus in mosquitoes in Boston at this time of year,” said BPHC Medical Director Dr. Jennifer Lo. “There is not an elevated risk level in Boston right now. However, if you are going to be spending time outside, you need to be thinking about prevention and protection against mosquito bites. That includes using an approved mosquito repellent, draining standing water from your yard and repairing window screens to keep mosquitos out of your home.”
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. There is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatments for West Nile Virus infection. The most effective way to avoid WNV is to take measures to prevent mosquito bites.
Mosquitoes in Boston are most active from dusk to dawn during the months of July to September, but mosquitoes can spread disease until the first hard frost (as late as November). The risk can be reduced by using insect repellent when outdoors, especially from dusk to dawn and, when possible, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants. Residents should also make sure that their window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside. To help prevent mosquitoes from breeding, BPHC advises residents to empty standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths on a regular basis.
Preventing Mosquito Bites:
Citywide Prevention Efforts:
BPHC partners with the Suffolk County Mosquito Control Project (SCMCP) to protect Boston residents from mosquito-borne illnesses and to control the mosquito population in certain areas of Boston. SCMCP collects mosquito samples in traps every week during the summer and fall. Those mosquito samples are tested to see if WNV or EEE are present. Mosquito control measures are also implemented during the summer and fall months. Wetlands, storm drains and other areas around the city are treated to limit the number of mosquitoes by killing mosquito larvae.
In April of 2020, there were sprayings in Hyde Park and West Roxbury. For more information about the sprayings, reach out to SCMCP at 781-899-5730. For a full list of any upcoming spraying, please visit bphc.org/mosquitocontrol.
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