West Nile virus detected in Massachusetts, health officials say

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) – West Nile virus has been detected in two mosquito samples in eastern Massachusetts. With these first positive results so far this summer, we’re getting answers on what we can expect in the months ahead.

We’re told no need to panic, because while some mosquitoes will become infected with the West Nile virus, the chances of them passing it along to humans and making them sick, are very slim.

As we approach the deeper summer months, along with hot weather, and waves of rain, we begin to see an increasing population of mosquitoes.

Testing is underway in the bay state for mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus, two samples from the Quincy area have recently turned up positive.

Western Mass News spoke with Stephen Rich, UMass microbiology professor and executive director of the New England Center of Excellence in vector born diseases, to learn more about the virus.

“It’s mostly a virus that’s in birds, so the transmission from bird to mosquito, bird to mosquitoes, happens early in the spring, they begin to wake up, and then to amplify throughout the course of the summer,” explained Rich.

He also told Western Mass News why residents do not need to worry about being bitten by a mosquito.

“Fortunately, most people that get it, probably don’t get sick, so lots of people get bit my mosquitoes, lots of people get bit my mosquitoes that aren’t infected,” said Rich.

For those bitten by an infected mosquito, Rich told us most people’s immune systems fight off the virus.

Western Mass News also spoke with Andrew Lover, UMass-Amherst assistant professor of epidemiology who told us West Nile virus is something they see every year, and something they track closely.

“So it’s nothing that unusual, but this is exactly why we do public health surveillance, it to make sure we have a handle on where the virus may be circulating,” added Lover.

He said it is more commonly found along the shoreline like Cape Cod, rather than western Massachusetts.

“Usually on the costal areas of Massachusetts it is more common because it circulates in wild birds, and so there are a light of bird fly aways, especially in the cape,” noted Lover.

Simple ways to protect yourself from mosquitoes, wear bug repellent clothing, apply bug spray, and avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

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