Mosquitoes are in the news again.
Mosquitoes in Massachusetts have been found to carry both West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). Transmission of these infections to humans is rare, but knowing what to watch for and how to protect yourself and your family is an important part of summer safety.
Although mosquito season will be over in several weeks, mosquito bites are still a risk, especially with continued warm temperatures and the beginning of school sports, and it is important to continue to take precautions. Most mosquito bites are more annoying than dangerous and can be treated with over-the-counter topical steroids, antihistamines and anti-inflammatories. But some bites can result in serious and sometimes deadly illnesses. If you suspect yourself or a loved one to be developing symptoms of West Nile Virus or EEE seek medical attention immediately.
Angelo Pucillo, PA-C, assistant chief physician assistant in the emergency department at MelroseWakefield Hospital, offers some important things to know about mosquito-borne illnesses:
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)
- As of August 29, there have been four human cases and eight animal cases of EEE in Massachusetts. According to Department of Public Health data, 379 mosquito samples have tested positive for the virus.
- The incubation period, the time from when the mosquito bites you to when you start developing symptoms, can be anywhere between four to 10 days.
- Signs and symptoms are abrupt onset of chills, fever, malaise and body aches. The symptoms can last one to two weeks.
- Not everyone infected gets encephalitis, but those who do can experience fever, headache, irritability, restlessness, drowsiness, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, turning blue, convulsions and coma.
- People over age 50 and under age 15 seem to be at highest risk for developing severe disease when infected with EEE.
- Approximately one third of all people with EEE die from the disease.
West Nile Virus
- As of August 29, there have been no reported human or animal cases of West Nile Virus in Massachusetts. However, the disease has been found in 61 mosquitoes.
- Twenty percent of people who are infected with West Nile Virus will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile Virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.
- Less than one percent of infected people will develop a serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis, which present with headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures or paralysis.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends reporting dead birds to local public health officials as this can be a sign that West Nile Virus is circulating in your area.
Prevention is the key to keeping mosquitoes away
Here are some tips to help prevent mosquito bites:
- Wear mosquito repellent with DEET when outdoors.
- Wear long sleeves and pants when weather permits.
- Keep screen doors and window screens in good repair.
- Mosquitoes are most active from dusk to dawn, so limit your time outdoors once it gets dark.
- Mosquitoes can lay eggs even in small amounts of standing water. Get rid of mosquito-breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets, barrels and tires. Change the water in pet dishes and replace the water in bird baths weekly. Drill holes in tire swings so water drains out. Empty children’s wading pools and store on their sides after use.
—Angelo Pucillo, PA-C, is the assistant chief physician assistant in the emergency department at Melrose Wakefield Hospital.
This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.