WORCESTER COUNTY, Mass. - Mosquito season is upon us and so is the West Nile Virus plus its sinister friend, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, both of which have been detected in Shrewsbury and Westborough.
Although spraying is going on in Shrewsbury, Westborough, and Southeastern Massachusetts, that alone is not enough to protect yourself. Thankfully, there is no reason to panic, as public health officials proclaim, but residents can be proactive.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that four out of five people who are infected by the West Nile Virus will not develop any illness. Eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, is only reported to infect a handful of people in the United States each year. That’s the good news.
The 20 percent who are infected might develop mild symptoms including fever, headache, tiredness, and body aches. A skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands might also occur.
But 1 in 150 will develop a more severe case which includes headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.
Public health officials say people should be aware of the early stage symptoms to get help before the disease progresses.
“West Nile is a virus so, generally speaking, it will slowly develop, depending on the person’s personal health,” said Andrew R. Pelletier, Development and Inspectional Services Director for the Town of Auburn.
Incubation period after being infected is from two to 15 days and symptoms can last from a few days to several weeks.
People under the age of 6, adults over the age of 50, and those with a weakened immunity system, are at the highest risk.
The Shrewsbury Board of Health said, in a press release, all Central Mass. residents can take a few simple steps to reduce the chance of being infected.
1. Avoid Mosquito Bites. These critters are most active from dusk to dawn. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities during those hours.
2. Wear protective clothing. Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks is burdensome in hot weather, but it will reduce the risk of a mosquito bite.
3. Apply insect repellent. Sprays like OFF that contain DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus is helpful. However, do not use DEET products on infants under two months of age, nor should older children use concentrations greater than 30 percent. Also, do not use Oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under age three.
Repellent with the ingredient called Permethrin should be applied ONLY to clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear, never on skin.
4. Mosquito-Proof Your Home. Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water so drain unused flowerpots, wading pools, and frequently change the water in bird baths. If possible, check rain gutters and drains. Also, be sure to repair or install window screens.
Although only two local towns have reported the virus, there is plenty of summer left. Pelletier, from the Auburn Board of Health, is cautious about the remaining season in his town.
“I’m not predicting this,” he said about mosquitoes infected with West Nile Virus landing in Auburn. “But I am expecting it. [We’ve] had cases in the past three years.”
Richard Price can be reached at email@example.com.