An East Boston man has been infected with the West Nile Virus (WNV) and public health officials are anxiously awaiting the season’s first freeze that will kill off the area’s mosquito population and end the threat here.
The Eastie man was in his 40s and hospitalized last week but has since been released with no complications. The Eastie man became the fourth confirmed case of WNV in the city this year. Last month, a woman in her 50’s, a man in his 40’s, and a man in his 50’s were hospitalized with WNV and released.
The latest case of WNV in Eastie prompted the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to elevate the WNV threat level for Boston and several surrounding communities after confirming other human cases of WNV in the region. In Boston, many neighborhoods, including Eastie, have had mosquito pools test positive for the virus.
“Mosquitoes carrying West Nile are present in Boston, and will be until the first hard frost,” said Dr. Anita Barry, director of the Infectious Disease Bureau at the Boston Public Health Commission. “It’s vital that all residents take some simple precautions to avoid getting bitten.”
These steps include using insect repellant when outdoors, especially from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are more likely to be biting and, when possible, wearing clothing that includes long sleeves and pants. People can avoid attracting mosquitoes in their homes by making sure that their window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquitoes from getting into the house.
To prevent mosquitoes from breeding, BPHC advises limiting places around the home where standing water can collect. People should turn over unused flowerpots, buckets, wheelbarrows, and garbage cans; remove leaves and other debris that can clog gutters and trap water; dispose of or cover old tires; and cover swimming pools and kiddy pools when not in use.
While WNV is most commonly transmitted to humans by the bite of a mosquito infected with the virus, it poses very low risk to humans.
About one in 150 people infected with WNV will develop severe illness. The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent.
Up to 20 percent of the people who become infected have symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back. Symptoms can last for as short as a few days, though even healthy people have become sick for several weeks.
Approximately 80 percent of people (about 4 out of 5) who are infected with WNV will not show any symptoms at all.
People typically develop symptoms between 3 and 14 days after the infected mosquito bites them.
For information on WNV, call the Boston Public Health Commission at 617-534-5611 or visit www.bphc.org.