mosquito

Officials are urging area residents to take precautions against mosquitoes.

It’s shaping up to be a busy summer for mosquito viruses despite relatively dry weather for the first part of the season.

West Nile virus has been found in a fifth Attleboro area community.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Tuesday West Nile virus (WNV) has been detected in mosquitoes in North Attleboro.

West Nile was found in mosquitoes in Rehoboth early last week, and was found in mid-August in Seekonk and Attleboro. Earlier, such insects were found in Mansfield.

There has been an increase in WNV-infected mosquitoes identified this year throughout the state, an indication the risk is widespread, Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said.

There have been a total of four human cases of West Nile virus in the state this year.

The latest, announced by the DPH Monday, was a woman in her 50s from Middlesex County who was never hospitalized for her illness.

Previous human cases involved a woman in her 70s from Worcester County, a woman in her 60s from Middlesex County, and a woman in her 50s from Suffolk County. A horse, stabled in Hampshire County, also was infected, became severely ill and had to be euthanized.

The state last week raised the risk level for WNV to “moderate” in every Massachusetts city and town. It was only the second time since WNV was first detected in the state in 2000 that public health officials have raised the risk level statewide.

With at least two of the four cases of humans exposed in the greater Boston area, officials Monday raised the risk level to high for 11 communities in that area.

“Several individuals from the same area have developed West Nile virus,” Bharel said.“That means that there is an increased risk in this specific area and that additional people could become infected. We are particularly concerned about people over 50 and those who are immunocompromised as they are the ones most likely to develop WNV disease.”

WNV can infect people of all ages, and most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. When present, WNV symptoms tend to include fever and flu-like illness. In rare cases, more severe illness can occur.

“It is extremely important for people to take steps to avoid mosquito bites, including using repellents, wearing clothing to reduce exposed skin, dumping standing water, and moving indoors when you notice mosquitoes biting you,’’ DPH State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown said.

By taking a few, common-sense precautions, people can help to protect themselves and others:

Avoid mosquito bites by being aware peak mosquito hours are dusk to dawn. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning. If you are outdoors and notice mosquitoes, move indoors, cover up with clothing, and/or wear repellent.

Mosquito-proof your home by draining standing water, checking gutters and drains, emptying unused flowerpots and wading pools, changing water in birdbaths frequently, and installing or repairing screens.

In 2017, there were six human cases of WNV infection identified in Massachusetts.

Attleboro area public health officials say they will continue to work closely with the MDPH and the Bristol County Mosquito Control Project. To request your property be sprayed for mosquitoes, contact Bristol County Mosquito Control at 508-823-5253.

Information about WNV and reports of current virus activity can be found at www.mass.gov/dph/mosquito or by calling the DPH Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.

Stephen Peterson can be reached at 508-236-0377.

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