If You Live in These States, Prepare for Potentially Paralyzing Mosquitoes
A handful of states just reported this summer's first mosquitoes carrying a serious virus.
No one wants to get a mosquito bite under any circumstances, but when there's a risk that the bite could come with a potentially paralyzing disease, the dread becomes even greater. This summer, at least six states have already detected West Nile virus in mosquitoes, and four of these states now have reported cases of humans who have contracted the virus from these pests.
On July 2, Rockland County Executive Ed Day and County Health Commissioner Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, DO, released a statement informing residents that two groups of mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile virus in Rockland County, New York this year. According to the statement, the infected mosquitoes were collected via traps in Orangetown and Clarkstown during the week of June 21 as part of the county's continued mosquito surveillance efforts. Luckily, no human cases have yet been reported in New York this summer, but residents should be on high alert. "This is typically the time of the year we expect to see a rise in West Nile virus activity, and these positive mosquito pools confirm that," Ruppert said in the statement.
Just one day earlier, on July 1, the Department of Public Health (DPH) in Massachusetts confirmed the first mosquito to test positive for West Nile virus in the state in 2021. Per a statement, the mosquito was caught in Medford on June 29, and no infected people have been reported in this state so far this year. Acting Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke said in the statement that the first "infected mosquito of the season is always a signal that it is time to start taking steps to avoid mosquito bites."
The Massachusetts DPH reported that there were just eight documented cases of the West Nile virus in Massachusetts in 2020. The number could be notably lower than usual since people were largely indoors during the pandemic. In 2018, there were 49 reported cases of West Nile virus in humans, the most the state has ever seen.
According to the statement from Rockland County, "Most mosquitoes do not test positive for disease-causing viruses. However, a bite from a West Nile virus-infected mosquito can cause serious illness, and in some cases, death." The statement also noted that people 50 and older are at an increased risk for severe illness. The disease can lead to "neurological diseases, and can also cause a milder flu-like illness, including fever, headache and body aches, nausea, and occasionally a skin rash and swollen lymph glands." If you experience any symptoms of West Nile virus, talk to your doctor immediately.
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), four other states have reported cases of the virus in people this year. Read on to see if your state's mosquitoes could be carrying West Nile.