Health Commissioner Dr. Swannie Jett announces that the Town of Brookline is now considered at high risk for West Nile Virus, and offer community members of important safety tips to prevent mosquito bites and avoid mosquito-borne diseases.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has increased risk levels from moderate to high in communities in Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk and Suffolk Counties due to increasing West Nile Virus activity. West Nile Virus has not been detected in the Town of Brookline.
Mosquitoes are most prevalent from May to August, but remain active until the first time temperatures fall below freezing. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, mosquito bites in the state typically result in skin irritation and itching. However, serious diseases including West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) are also spread by mosquitoes in rare instances. These viruses can cause illness ranging from a mild fever to more serious disease like encephalitis or meningitis.
EEE was first detected in the state in 1938. The most recent outbreak, which began in 2019, included 12 cases with six fatalities, and the outbreak continued into 2020 with five cases resulting in one fatality.
West Nile virus was first detected in the United States in 1999. Since the majority of those exposed to West Nile virus have no symptoms, it’s difficult to identify exactly how many people have been infected. Only those who develop severe illnesses with West Nile virus are often reported.
The Brookline Department of Public Health encourages residents to follow these tips provided by the DPH:
- Use insect repellent with DEET any time you are outdoors. Be sure to follow the application directions on the label.
- Be aware of peak mosquito hours, which are generally from dusk to dawn.
- Residents who are ages 50 and older, or those who are immunocompromised, should limit outdoor activities from dusk to dawn.
- Wear protective clothing when outdoors during peak mosquito hours such as long sleeves, long pants, high socks, hats with netting to cover the face, and any other clothing that will cover exposed skin.
- Use mosquito netting around baby carriages or child playpens when your baby is outdoors.
- Make sure screens are repaired and are tightly attached to doors and windows.
- Remove standing water from places such as puddles, ditches, bird baths and gutters, which are breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
The Brookline Department of Public Health also wishes to share the following tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
- Do not apply insect repellent on the skin beneath clothing.
- Consider buying permethrin-treated clothing and gear, or using permethrin to treat your clothing and gear. Do not use permethrin products directly on skin.
- Use an indoor insect fogger or indoor insect spray to kill mosquitoes and treat areas where they rest. Always follow label instructions.
- To prevent mosquito bites when traveling overseas, choose a hotel or lodging with air conditioning or screens on windows and doors, or sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are outside or in a room that does not have screens.
Parents, guardians and caregivers of babies and children are advised:
- Dress children in long layers to cover their arms and legs.
- Use mosquito netting to cover strollers and baby carriers outdoors.
- When using insect repellent on a child, follow instructions on the label and never use products that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children under 3 years of age.
- Never apply insect repellent on a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, cuts, or irritated skin. To apply insect repellent to a child’s face, carefully spray it onto your hands and apply it to the skin.
Massachusetts DPH risk maps may be found here.
More CDC prevention tips may be found here.