West Nile Virus Risk Level Raised to Moderate Statewide

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced it has raised the risk level for West Nile virus from low to moderate in every Massachusetts city and town and urged residents to take precautions against mosquito bites.

Of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, 162 communities are already considered to be at moderate risk for West Nile virus. This is only the second time that public-health officials have raised the risk level statewide. To date, there have been no reported human West Nile cases in Massachusetts.

“The hot, humid weather in Massachusetts combined with frequent heavy rainfall has provided perfect conditions for mosquito species carrying West Nile virus to breed,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. “I strongly encourage everyone to keep using insect repellant and to be especially aware of mosquito activity at dusk and dawn, when the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes is greatest. Move indoors if you are getting bitten.”

While West Nile can infect people of all ages, people over age 50 are at higher risk for severe disease. The disease is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most infected people will have no symptoms. When present, symptoms tend to include fever and flu-like illness. In rare cases, more severe illness can occur.

“August and September are the months when most human cases occur,” said DPH State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown. “That’s why we are taking this step today so together we can help keep people from getting sick.”