SAUGUS — West Nile virus was detected in a mosquito collected from Saugus, and the town is taking action to minimize the number of the insects that are breeding.
The positive test was conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The mosquito that tested positive for the virus is considered a “dirty mosquito” that only bites birds, according to a statement.
Even so, the department announced on Friday that it was raising the risk for Saugus and surrounding communities to high for future cases of West Nile virus in humans after the 10th person in the state contracted the virus in Essex County.
The risk was raised in Saugus, Lynn, Revere, Malden, Melrose, and Winthrop. Last year, there were six cases of West Nile 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. The victim is 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 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.
The town has treated all storm drains and catch basins with larvicide and conducted targeted spraying, said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. An additional spraying is scheduled Wednesday night, weather permitting.
David Greenbaum, director of the town’s Public Health Department, said there are no real precautions that need to be taken prior to spraying, but residents and pets should stay inside while it’s occurring.
Residents can close the windows of their home that face the street, but it is not necessary, said Greenbaum. Air conditioning units can remain on. The spray dissipates within minutes, he said.
The town will continue to work with Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control and Wetland Management district to reduce the mosquito population and the risk of West Nile virus transmission, said Crabtree in a statement.
The town and board of health will continue to work closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and other agencies to take all necessary preventative precautions and to monitor any virus activity, he said.