BOSTON – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced today that multiple indications suggest that the risk of human disease from infection with West Nile Virus (WNV) is now high in the New Bedford area. In addition, the finding of mammal-biting mosquitoes infected with eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus in Dighton, has increased human EEE risk for that town and the surrounding area, as well.

Increasing numbers of WNV and EEE positive mosquitoes have been found in parts of Southern Bristol County. In addition, there is an increase in the number of mammal-biting mosquitoes being found. «Historically, this is the peak time for occurrence of human infection and attention to avoid mosquitoes and mosquito bites is always important, but especially as the summer ends, activities change and thoughts are focused on many other things. The recent hurricane did not reduce our concern, if anything it increased it, with the potential for more infected mosquitoes going into the cooler weather when people are perhaps not thinking so much about mosquito risk.», said Dr. Al DeMaria, the State Epidemiologist.

There were seven cases of WNV in Massachusetts residents last year. While WNV can infect people of all ages, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe disease. WNV is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

All WNV and EEE positive results from 2011 can be found on the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page at www.mass.gov/dph/wnv.

People have an important role to play in protecting themselves and their loved ones from illnesses caused by mosquitoes.

Avoid Mosquito Bites

· Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning.

· Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites. Wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.

· Apply Insect Repellent when outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 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% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.

Mosquito-Proof Your Home

· Drain Standing Water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.

· Install or Repair Screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.

More information is available on the DPH website: www.mass.gov/dph/wnv/wnv1.htm.

Information about WNV and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is also available by calling the DPH recorded information line at 1-866-MASS-WNV (1-866-627-7968), or the Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.

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