The Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Thursday announced the first human case of West Nile virus in that state this year.
The person is a Middlesex County man in his 60s who was hospitalized due to his illness, health officials said, but the risk of human infection with the mosquito-borne virus is considered to be generally low.
“We have not seen much West Nile virus activity this year,” Mass. Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel said in a statement. “Still, today’s news is a compelling reminder that we all need to continue to take steps to protect ourselves and our families from mosquito bites.”
In 2018, there were 49 human cases of West Nile Virus infection identified in Massachusetts. While the virus can infect people of all ages, health officials said, people over the age of 50 are at higher risk of severe disease. West Nile Virus symptoms tend to include fever and flu-like illness, but most people infected will have no symptoms. In rare cases, severe illness can occur.
“While Massachusetts is seeing a very active season for another mosquito-borne disease, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, this is the first human case of (West Nile Virus),” said Mass. State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown. “We continue to strongly recommend personal precautions to reduce your risk of all mosquito-borne disease.”
On Aug. 29, health officials said a horse from Granby, Mass., was infected with the EEE virus. The Mass. Department of Public Health has since confirmed that the horse was stabled in Connecticut. As a result, the Massachusetts towns of Granby, Belchertown, Ludlow, Chicopee and South Hadley have all been reduced to moderate risk of the vrus.
Earlier this week, health officials announced that a West Warwick, R.I., resident had died of EEE, that state’s first fatality from the virus since 2007.
The Rhode Island case came as Massachusetts’ EEE crisis had spread to seven cases, including one fatality.
Last Friday, officials announced two new human cases of EEE in the Bay State: a 5-year-old Sudbury, Mass., girl and a Northboro, Mass., woman in her 60s.
Sudbury, Mass., town officials said the girl was in critical condition Friday, and they canceled all outdoor town and school events that night.
A GoFundMe page reported on Tuesday that Sophia Garabedian was beginning to show some signs of improvement and that doctors said the swelling in her brain was starting to subside.
Northboro officials said the other new case was a local woman, bringing the number of confirmed Massachusetts cases so far this year to seven, including a Fairhaven woman who died of EEE earlier this summer.
About one-third of those who develop EEE will die, and many who survive will have mild to severe permanent neurological damage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus typically has an incubation period of four to 10 days after an infected mosquito bites someone. Symptoms can include headaches, fever, muscle stiffness, irritability and vomiting, and can progress to disorientation, inflammation of the brain and coma.