SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — Mosquitoes collected in Seekonk and New Bedford have tested positive for West Nile Virus, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Tuesday.
West Nile Virus – along with Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) – have both been detected throughout the state. As a result, health officials announced that it will conduct a second round of mosquito spraying in specific areas of Southeastern Massachusetts over the course of several days beginning Aug. 21.
New Bedford officials said the infected mosquitoes were trapped in the area of the Oak Grove Cemetery and were a species known to primarily bite birds.
So far this year, 37 communities in Massachusetts have been found by DPH to be at either critical or high risk for the EEE virus.
Health officials said EEE is a rare but serious and potentially fatal disease that can affect people of all ages. The first two human cases of EEE in Massachusetts since 2013 were announced on August 10 and August 16, an indication of the current significant risk of EEE in the Commonwealth.
While West Nile Virus can infect people of all ages, health officials said people over the age of 50 are at higher risk for severe infection.
“While aerial spraying is an important tool to help us reduce the public health risk of EEE, it’s critically important that everyone in high-risk areas continue to take personal precautions against mosquito bites,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH.
The presence of infected mosquitoes postponed New Bedford’s “National Night Out” event, which was rescheduled to an afternoon event so attendees were not outside during peak mosquito hours.
“We want to keep people safe in this spirit of this kind of event,” New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the city has also temporarily banned activities past nightfall due to the high-risk of West Nile Virus and EEE in the area.
“We’re going to monitor the situation and if we don’t get positive results [for the viruses], we’ll go back to normal and have nighttime activities,” Mitchell added.
Health officials suggest taking precautions against mosquito bites, including:
- Be aware of peak mosquito hours – which are dusk to dawn – and consider rescheduling events.
- Wear long-sleeves, long pants and socks, when outdoors.
- Apply insect repellent with DEET, Permethrin, picaridin, IR3535, or lemon eucalyptus oil.
- Mosquito-proof your home by draining standing water and installing or fixing screens.
Residents who want their property to be sprayed for mosquitoes can contact Bristol County Mosquito at (508) 823-5253.