Health officials see increased risk of mosquito-borne illnesses in Massachusetts

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The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and the North Attleborough Board of Health want residents to know that the risk of mosquito-borne illness is on the rise in Massachusetts. These mosquito-borne illnesses include West Nile virus (WNV) and eastern equine encephalitis (EEE).

This summer, health officials have seen an increased amount of early season EEE activity in mosquitoes in southeastern Massachusetts and a rise in the number of WNV-infected mosquitoes from multiple areas of the state. Locally, they have seen a WNV positive mosquito in Attleboro and a human case of EEE in Plymouth County. While North Attleborough has not seen any positive mosquitoes, they want residents to be aware of the increasing risk and take precautions.

WNV and EEE are spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. People under age 15 or over age 50 are at greatest risk for serious illness from EEE, and people over age 50 are at higher risk for severe infection from WNV.

Avoid Mosquito Bites

  • Be aware of peak mosquito hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that take place during evening or early morning hours. Otherwise, take extra care to use bug spray and protective clothing.
  • Clothing can help reduce mosquito bites. Although it may be difficult to do when it’s hot, wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
  • Apply bug spray when outdoors. Use a bug spray with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30 percent or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age. Permethrin products are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear and should not be applied to skin.

Mosquito-Proof The Home

  • Drain standing water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or getting rid of items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.
  • Install or repair screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all windows and doors. Fix any holes or tears in screens, so mosquitoes can’t get in.

Horse owners are encouraged to vaccinate their horses and reduce their horses’ exposure to mosquitoes. Signs of illness in any horse should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

More information about mosquito-borne illness and levels of EEE activity in Massachusetts during 2020 can be found on the DPH website at https://www.mass.gov/mosquito-borne-diseases.