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Human cases of West Nile Virus confirmed in MA, Freetown closes parks at dusk

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Photo courtesy of Freetown Department of Health

Boston — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced the first three human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) in the state this year. One is a woman in her 70s from Worcester County who was hospitalized but has since been discharged. The second is a woman in her 60s from Middlesex County who was not hospitalized during her illness. The third is a woman in her 50s from Suffolk County who was hospitalized but has been discharged. A horse, stabled in Hampshire County, also was infected, became severely ill and had to be euthanized.

On Tuesday, DPH raised the risk level for West Nile virus from low to moderate in every Massachusetts city and town. It was only the second time since WNV was first detected in the commonwealth in 2000 that public health officials have raised the risk level statewide.

“There has been an increase in WNV-infected mosquitoes identified this year throughout the state, an indication that the risk is widespread and ongoing,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “That means that this year, it is extremely important for people to take steps to avoid mosquito bites including using repellents, wearing clothing to reduce exposed skin, dumping standing water, and moving indoors when you notice mosquitoes biting you.”

“August and September are the months when we typically see more human cases because it is the beginning of the peak season for possible West Nile virus human infections,” said DPH State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown. “These new human cases illustrate why we informed people about the increased risk for human infections earlier this week.”

In related news, Freetown Board of Health Agent Derek Macedo has announced that all public parks are to be closed from dusk through dawn, due to the state-wide elevated threat of the West Nile Virus. Signs have been posted at Hathaway Park in Assonet and the Central Park ballfields in East Freetown, but this closure goes for all public parks in Freetown.

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