SAUGUS — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) increased the risk for additional cases of West Nile virus to “high” in Saugus and surrounding communities.
The risk was raised in Saugus, Lynn, Revere, Malden, Melrose, and Winthrop. Last year, there were six cases of West Nile virus across the state. There have been 10 so far this year, according to Mass.gov.
The 10th human case of the virus was announced Friday in a man in his 60s from Essex County. He was hospitalized during his illness.
“Due to information about where this individual was most likely exposed and continued findings of (West Nile virus) in mosquitoes in the area, there is an increased chance that additional human illnesses could occur,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel. “That’s why it is important that people continue using insect repellents, reducing exposed skin, and moving indoors when mosquitos are biting.’’
West Nile virus is a mosquito-carried virus that can cause illness ranging from a mild fever to more serious symptoms, although most people infected show no symptoms.
The virus can infect people of all ages, but people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe illness.
It was first identified in the United States in 1999 and is spread most commonly through the bite of an infected mosquito. There are about 3,000 different species of mosquitoes worldwide, according to Mass.gov, and about 51 in Massachusetts.
“Although the weather is cooler right now, temperatures are forecast to increase again next week and so it continues to be extremely important for people to take these steps to avoid mosquito bites,” said DPH State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown. “With conditions still very favorable for the mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus, we recommend everyone continue to try and avoid being bitten.”
To avoid mosquito bites, people should use insect repellent while outside. The repellent should have DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-menthane 3, 8-diol (PMD)], or IR3535 according to the instructions on the product label.
DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30 percent or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.
It is also important to be aware of peak mosquito hours, which are from dusk to dawn.
Wearing long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors to help keep mosquitos away from your skin can help, according to a statement from the department.
Homeowners should drain standing water, where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Rain gutters, drains, unused flower pots, and bird baths should be checked for standing water.
Screens should be used to keep mosquitoes outside of homes.
People with animals should flush out water troughs at least once a week during the summer months to reduce mosquitos near paddock areas, according to the statement. Horse owners should keep horses in indoor stalls at night to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitos.
Owners should also speak with their veterinarian about mosquito repellents approved for use in animals and vaccinations to prevent West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). If an animal is diagnosed with West Nile virus or EEE, owners are required to report to the Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795 and to the DPH by calling 617-983-6800.
More information, including all WNV and EEE positive results, can be found on the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page at www.mass.gov/dph/mosquito or by calling the DPH Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.