Though this unusually hot and humid summer is on its way out, the mosquito-borne virus that thrives in that sultry weather remains a threat to humans and animals alike.
The West Nile Virus is alive and well, and will likely remain so until we have several days of cooler temperatures.
Mosquitoes carrying the virus have been trapped across the commonwealth, with most towns and cities currently under a “moderate” risk level. Lowell was added to the list along with 12 other communities, with its first positive test.
To that we can add Tewksbury and Wilmington. According to Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the virus was recently detected in both communities.
Five more people in Massachusetts recently have tested positive for West Nile virus, bringing this year’s total of human cases to 10. There were six human cases in the state last year.
Evidence of a potentially active West Nile virus season materialized in late July, when a mosquito collected in Ayer tested positive. Then in mid-August, mosquitoes from two areas in Leominster tested positive. Then, Shirley.
According to the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health, individuals 50 and older face a higher risk for severe infections.
So what’s your best defense?
Mosquitoes tend to be most active from dusk to dawn. If you plan on being outdoors during that time, wear pants and long sleeves and cover any exposed areas with insect repellent.
* Remove standing water from around the home, including regularly emptying any metal cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, and other water-holding containers;
* Repair damaged window screens;
* Pay special attention to discarded tires, a common place for mosquitoes to breed.
* Clean clogged roof gutters; remove leaves and debris that may prevent drainage of rainwater.
* Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
* Don’t let water stagnate in birdbaths;
* Keep swimming pools clean and properly chlorinated; remove standing water from pool covers.
While health officials say most cases of the West Nile virus infection are mild and thus not reported, symptoms can include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph nodes. In rare cases, more serious signs may include stiff neck, sleepiness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, and paralysis.
While we may be transitioning from the long, hot summer to the more temperate fall, it’s no time to let down your guard. The West Nile threat will be around for a while.