A Lowell woman, who was a frequent jogger along the Tewksbury border, has contracted the West Nile Virus, prompting the State Department of Health to raise the West Nile risk level to 'High' in both communities.
Medical officials believe the woman, who has not been identified, is likely to have contracted the disease when she was bitten by a mosquito while running on Clark Road in Lowell, near the Tewksbury line, according to an article appearing in the Lowell Sun.
According to the state, there have been 14 cases of humans in Massachusetts contracting West Nile, including one death. There have also been four residents who have contracted Easter Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
In Tewksbury, West Nile has been detected in three separate tests of mosquitoes in the Shawsheen Street, Whipple Road and Boisvert Road.
Lou Ann Clement, Tewksbury's Health Department director, the state does not advise cancelling any activities or asking residents to stay indoors. Rather, the state wants the level of awareness and education regarding West Nile to be increased.
"They want more and heightened education," she said. "There will be a video educating the public on West Nile that will be placed on our (public access) TV station and I'll be doing some work with the Senior Center. West Nile is preventable if certain precautions are taken."
Clement also said an area of Whipple Road will be sprayed for mosquitoes either next Monday or Wednesday. She did not immediately which specific neighborhood would be sprayed.
Public health officials have stated that chances of acquiring mosquito borne diseases such as WNV or EEE are remote, but that residents should be aware that these mosquito-borne viruses could cause fever, meningitis or encephalitis. Early symptoms of these diseases include fever, headache, stiff neck and muscle weakness.
Below are precautions to take against contracting West Nile Virus, taken from a DPH press release.
Avoid Mosquito Bites
- Apply Insect Repellent when Outdoors. Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-methane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] or IR3535 according to the instructions on the product label. DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30% or less on older children. Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.
- Be Aware of Peak Mosquito Hours. The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Consider rescheduling outdoor activities that occur during evening or early morning.
- Clothing Can Help Reduce Mosquito Bites. Wearing long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
Mosquito-Proof Your Home
- Drain Standing Water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by either draining or discarding items that hold water. Check rain gutters and drains. Empty any unused flowerpots and wading pools, and change water in birdbaths frequently.
- Install or Repair Screens. Keep mosquitoes outside by having tightly-fitting screens on all of your windows and doors.
Protect Your Animals
Animal owners should reduce potential mosquito breeding sites on their property by eliminating standing water from containers such as buckets, tires, and wading pools — especially after heavy rains. Water troughs provide excellent mosquito breeding habitats and should be flushed out at least once a week during the summer months to reduce mosquitoes near paddock areas. Horse owners should keep horses in indoor stalls at night to reduce their risk of exposure to mosquitoes. If an animal is diagnosed with WNV or EEE, owners are required to report to DAR, Division of Animal Health by calling 617-626-1795 and to the Department of Public Health (DPH) by calling 617-983-6800.
More information, including all WNV and EEE positive results from 2012, can be found on the Arbovirus Surveillance Information web page at www.mass.gov/dph/wnv or by calling the DPH Epidemiology Program at 617-983-6800.