By Kyle Ross

Summer brings warm weather and mosquitoes that may spread West Nile Virus (called “WNV” for short) to people if they are bitten by an infected mosquito.  For the first time this summer, a mosquito pool in Boston has tested positive for WNV. There have been no confirmed human cases of WNV in Boston this year.

What is West Nile Virus?

West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne disease spread by the bite of an infected mosquito.

How is West Nile Virus spread?

WNV is spread through the bites of an infected mosquito that has fed on a bird that carries the virus. When the mosquito bites a person, the virus is spread to that person. A person infected with WNV cannot pass the virus to another person, unless it is through blood transfusions or breast milk.

Birds cannot pass WNV to humans directly, so if you see a dead bird you do not need to report it to Boston Public Health Commission.  However, you should put on gloves to put the bird into the garbage for pick up and be sure to wash your hands well after.

What are the symptoms of WNV?

Most people with WNV infection have no symptoms, but if they do, they can expect to see symptoms between 3 and 14 days after the bite.  Some people have mild illness with fever, headache, and body aches. A few people will develop a severe illness.

It is all about preventing WNV!

To avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, use insect repellant when going outside, wear long sleeves and long pants outdoors, avoid going outside during the peak mosquito hours from dawn to dusk, and remove standing water from your home because mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water.

Please see a fact sheet below to help protect yourself and family from WNV:

Haitian Creole
Cape Verde

For more information on West Nile Virus and other mosquito-borne mllnesses, please visit BPHC’s bureau of infectious diseases homepage or call 617-534-5611.

Kyle Ross is a Tufts veterinary student interning with the Communicable Disease Control Division of the Infectious Disease Bureau.