Residents Urged to Take Precautions to Prevent WNV

With the West Nile Virus (WNV) detected in mosquito pools in virtually every Boston neighborhood, including Charlestown, the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) is urging residents to take precautions after a recent death from WNV.

The BPHC confirmed that a Boston resident had died as a result of contracting WNV. While the BPHC would not specify what neighborhood the patient was from citing confidentiality, officials did say the patient had multiple other medical problems.

“We were deeply saddened to hear about the death of this patient,” said Dr. Huy Nguyen, Interim Executive Director and Medical Director at the Public Health Commission. “We are urging Boston residents to take necessary precautions, and remember that mosquito-borne illnesses pose a risk until the first hard frost.”

WNV is most commonly transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito, and poses greater health risks to the elderly and those with other medical problems. This year, mosquito pools in a majority of Boston neighborhoods have tested positive for WNV. Though temperatures are dropping, WNV remains a threat until at least the first hard frost.

Residents who are participating in evening outdoor events should take precautions to minimize the risk of a mosquito bite. In addition to using insect repellant when outdoors, especially from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active, BPHC urges people to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when possible. Residents should also mosquito-proof their home by making sure that their window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside.

To prevent mosquitoes from breeding, BPHC advises residents to limit places around the home where standing water can collect. People should turn over unused flower pots, 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 when not in use. The City of Boston, in partnership with the Suffolk County Mosquito Control Project, has placed larvicide in catch basins in the city, a process designed to reduce the adult mosquito population.

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.

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