The state Department of Public Health yesterday announced the state's first animal case of West Nile Virus: In an alpaca, somewhere in sprawling Middlesex County, a week after four human cases had been confirmed in the state.
With both people and animals now getting infected with the mosquito-borne virus, in a summer that has seen higher-than-average amounts of mosquito-pool-generating rain, the state has raised its risk level for the virus from moderate to high in 27 communities: Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop; Lynnfield and Saugus in Essex County; and Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Burlington, Cambridge, Everett, Lexington, Lincoln, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Newton, Reading, Somerville, Stoneham, Wakefield, Waltham, Watertown, Winchester and Woburn in Middlesex County; Brookline in Norfolk County.
The virus typically produces mild flu-like symptoms in otherwise healthy younger people, but can prove more severe in people with impaired immune systems or who are over 50, the state says.
While we advise everyone to take steps to avoid mosquito bites, this is especially important if you are over the age of 50 or have an immune compromising condition. It is also important to know that as overnight temperatures get cooler, mosquito activity right around dusk and dawn may be more intense.
Alpaca photo by Teo Romera. Posted under this Creative Commons license.