Boston, MA — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has officially raised the statewide risk status for West Nile Virus from low to moderate, after mosquitos carrying the virus have been found in close to half the communities in MA.

Massachusetts is no stranger to implementing a risk status for the West Nile Virus; the disease has been found in the state every summer since the year 2000. The first report of a Mass resident contracting the virus occurred in 2001, and ten residents have died from the disease since. However, eight of these individuals were of age 80 or above, according to the MA State Public Health Laboratory Arbovirus Surveillance Program. While those who become infected with the West Nile Virus exhibit a range of symptoms (some human carriers experience no physical difficulties whatsoever), the elderly are much more susceptible to the more severe features of the disease. The most serious symptoms, according to the Mass DPH, include fever, nausea, convulsions, tremors, numbness, and paralysis. 162 Bay State communities, including Northampton, Brookline, Acton, and Falmouth, contain mosquitos that have tested positive for the West Nile Virus this summer; however, there have been no apparent fatalities caused by infection thus far.

The MA Department of Public Health is advising all residents to take caution as the summer heat picks up yet again. According to Dr. Monica Bharel, the DPH Commissioner, “hot, humid weather in Massachusetts combined with frequent heavy rainfall has provided perfect conditions for mosquito species carrying West Nile Virus to breed.” The DPH is additionally encouraging residents to stay clear of mosquitos by applying an EPA-approved insect repellant prior to time outdoors, as well as moving back indoors in the event of a bite. They also urge the public to keep in mind that the majority of mosquitos will be active from dusk until dawn and that these hours should be approached with extra caution. Further advice from the DPH includes installing screened-in doors at home to prevent mosquitos from entering, keeping pets protected with animal-safe insect repellants, and limiting the amount of free-standing water near homes (as this is where mosquitos can easily breed).