West Nile Virus Detected in Mosquito in Falmouth

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced yesterday that a case of West Nile Virus was detected in a mosquito sampled from a site on Woods Hole Road in Falmouth.

The virus was collected on Tuesday from a site patrolled by the Cape Cod Mosquito Control Project (CCMCP). Members of the CCMCP do not wish to release the exact location because of past incidents of vandalism to its trapping equipment.

The mosquito that tested positive was of the culex variety, which the Falmouth Health Department said typically breeds in shallow manmade areas that collect water such as catch basins, driveways, bird feeders, and buckets.

There were two occasions when the virus was found in Marstons Mills in 2012 and the last time it was found on Cape Cod before that was in 2009.

Falmouth has had two cases of West Nile in the past. One came in 2001 when it was found in a horse and several birds, which was the first time the virus had shown up in Barnstable County, said Gabrielle Sakolsky, assistant superintendent and entomologist for the CCMCP. The second time was in 2003 when positive testing was found in a mosquito off Woods Hole Road at the same location as the sample taken this week.

This year could prove to be a significant year, said Ms. Sakolsky, because of the heavy rains in the spring and early summer. Mosquito larvae grow in stagnant, fresh and salt water.

The threat level for mosquito-borne diseases on Cape Cod is usually remote but this year it is one level higher at low.

There have been no reports of humans infected with West Nile this year on the Cape.

The Falmouth Health Department advised the public to be aware of the peak mosquito hours to avoid being bitten, to take the necessary precautions, and to empty any standing water that might be on their property.

Precautions include staying indoors during peak mosquito times, which are dusk and dawn, or wearing the appropriate clothing such as a long shirt and pants. Insect repellent is suggested as well.

Efforts to control mosquito populations in the area will increase until the CCMCP think the mosquito populations have dropped, said John W. Doane, superintendent for the project. Their work will include emptying any stagnant water in the area in an effort to kill larvae before they can become fully grown mosquitos. The group has already led heightened efforts in the area because of what Mr. Doane said were higher mosquito levels compared to previous years.

There will be a crew from the CCMCP in the Woods Hole Road area on July 26 to reevaluate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that most people infected with West Nile will have no symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other, flu-like symptoms. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurological illness. There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile infection.

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