Health Director Sigalle Reiss and the Brookline Department of Public Health report that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health detected West Nile Virus (WNV) in mosquito samples collected in town on Thursday, July 06, 2023.
According to the Massachusetts DPH, West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-carried virus that can cause illnesses ranging from a mild fever to more serious diseases like encephalitis or meningitis. It was first identified in the United States in 1999. WNV is most commonly spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito.
Most people bitten by infected mosquitoes experience no symptoms, while about 20% of those who become infected can experience symptoms like fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands. They may also develop a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Less than one percent of people infected develop severe illness.
Most people bitten by mosquitoes carrying WNV will experience no symptoms or very mild symptoms and will recover on their own. Persons over 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe WNV disease.
Still, residents should be aware of the risks posed by mosquito-borne viruses and take precautions against WNV infection.
Mosquito-borne viruses are viruses that are carried and spread by mosquitoes. In Massachusetts, public health surveillance is done for two mosquito-borne viruses — West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). The period of highest risk of getting either disease can be from late July through the fall, until the first frost.
Mosquitoes get WNV and EEE 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 used to discard them in the trash.
The Brookline Department of Public Health is involved in active surveillance for mosquito-borne viruses. Brookline will be doing the following to address mosquito-borne viruses this summer:
- Larvicide has been applied to all catch basins and some wetland areas to prevent hatching of new mosquitoes.
- Mosquito traps have been established and mosquito batches are being tested for the virus.
The Town of Brookline also recommends community members take the following precautionary measures:
Avoid Mosquito Bites
- 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 3 years old. Permethrin products are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear and should not be applied to skin.
- Avoid areas that tend to have a lot of mosquitoes, such as wetlands or swampy areas.
- Clothing can help reduce mosquito bites. Wearing long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
- 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 the evening or early morning. If you are outdoors at any time and notice mosquitoes around you, take steps to avoid being bitten by moving indoors, covering up and/or wearing repellant.
Mosquito-Proof Your Home
- Drain standing or stagnant water in and around your home or business. 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.
- repair leaking pipes and outdoor faucets;
- keep your grass cut short and bushes near your house trimmed so mosquitoes can’t hide;
- call the Brookline Department of Public Health if you see standing water problems that are not on your property.
Anyone with questions should contact the Brookline Department of Public Health at 617-730-2300.
Information about WNV and reports of current and historical WNV activity in Massachusetts can be found on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website.