State Officials Raise Risk of West Nile Virus to High – See How to Prepare

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The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) has notified the Watertown Health Department that due to the presence of human cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) in the area, the risk level for West Nile Virus has been elevated to High. Mosquitoes in the area have tested positive for West Nile Virus, and personal protection against mosquito exposure has been advised for most of the summer.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Outdoor Recreation and Sporting Activity /Outdoor Activity! Be aware of increased mosquito activity between dusk and dawn. Ensure that your children are protected when engaging in outdoor sports. If you must be outdoors when mosquitoes are active, wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and socks. Cover baby carriages and playpens that are outdoors with mosquito netting.

Use a mosquito repellent when outdoors! Repellents that contain DEET are the most effective, although DEET should not be used on infants. The Centers for Disease Control also recommends products which contain the chemical Picaridin, found in Cutter Advanced; or products containing the oil of lemon eucalyptus. Alternatives to DEET that can also be effective for a limited duration of one hour are: citronella; Avon Skin-So-Soft Plus; Buzz Away; neem oil; and soybean oil. If you need help selecting a repellent, one useful tool is available at http://pi.ace.orst.edu/repellents/.

Avoid areas that tend to have a lot of mosquitoes, such as wetlands or swampy areas.

Fix holes in window and door screens.

Remove standing or stagnant water in your yard where mosquitoes breed. Check containers, pots, garbage cans, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, old tires, clogged gutters, etc., remove water and invert containers. Ensure that swimming pools are not abandoned and left with standing water.

Repair leaking pipes and outdoor faucets.

Keep your grass cut short and bushes near your house trimmed so that mosquitoes can’t hide.

Mosquitoes get WNV by biting infected birds. People and animals can get these diseases by being bitten by an infected mosquito. There is no evidence that a person can get these viruses from handling live or dead infected birds or animals. However, gloves should be worn when handling any dead animals, and double plastic bags should be used to discard them in the trash.

Most people bitten by mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus will experience no symptoms or very mild symptoms and will recover on their own. People over 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe WNV disease.

Severe symptoms of mosquito borne diseases include high fever, muscle weakness, headache, disorientation, neck stiffness, paralysis, coma, tremors, convulsions and sometimes death. There is currently no vaccine or medical cure for these illnesses. In severe cases, intensive medical therapy can be administered in hospitals.

What is Watertown doing to protect you?

Larvicide has been applied to over 3,400 catch basins to prevent hatching of new mosquitoes, and additional larviciding has been conducted this week in targeted areas.

Monitoring of mosquito batches has been conducted all summer and notification of the presence of mosquito-borne disease has been conducted.

Additional mosquito-borne virus information is on the MDPH website, at http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/id/epidemiology/providers/public-health-cdc-arbovirus-info.html.

For further information or to report stagnant water (more than 10 days) or other complaints, please contact the Watertown Health Department at 617-972-6446.

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