Massachusetts Public Health officials confirmed the state’s third human case of West Nile Virus earlier this week – in the city of Pittsfield. The virus is spread to humans through infected mosquitos.
A Pittsfield woman in her 70’s, who remains anonymous has contracted the most recent case of West Nile. As of Tuesday, she was hospitalized, though expected to be released soon. Christopher Horton, superintendent of the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project, says the peak season for West Nile Virus is now.
“Last week in August, first two weeks in September, this’ll be the peak time historically that people have been infected. Basically, all the personal protection precautions have to be taken until the end of the season which would be a hard frost.”
Horton adds that because of the mild, dry winter, and long dry stretches this summer, the mosquito population in Western Massachusetts is down from previous years. But, he says mosquitos could make a comeback if the region gets extensive rain in the coming weeks.
“I mean, we could easily get huge mosquito populations in a short time, especially if there’s warm weather.”
Massachusetts health officials say precautions to avoid the risk of West Nile Virus include using insect repellant when outdoors, avoiding outdoor activity during peak mosquito hours at dusk, and wearing clothing that keep mosquitos away from skin. Symptoms of West Nile are similar to the flu, though nearly 80% of those who contract West Nile show no symptoms of the virus.
For more information on West Nile Virus precautions and current risk levels in Massachusetts, click here.