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West Nile Virus Confirmed in Pittsfield Mosquito - No Human Cases Found

A mosquito infected with West Nile Virus was recently found in Pittsfield. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau chief Lucas Willard spoke with regional health officials to get more information on the disease in the region.

The mosquito carrying West Nile virus was obtained in Pittsfield by the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project and was confirmed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

According to Merridith O’Leary, Health Director for the City of Pittsfield, no cases of the disease in humans have been found in Berkshire County. She also mentioned that the detection came after an increase in state funding for more West Nile Virus testing in Western Massachusetts.

West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. According to the latest numbers from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, there have been no cases of the virus infecting humans this year.  According to the Center for Disease Control, six confirmed cases of human infection of the disease were reported in the state in 2011.

According to the Vermont Department of Public Health, no cases have been confirmed this year either. Last year, the state observed its first confirmed case since 2003. The virus can also affect horses, but Erika Berl of Vermont Public Health says that because of a horse vaccine, the disease has been appearing less frequently.

Currently there is no vaccine for the virus in humans.

In New York State, a young girl died from West Nile Virus last year. Peter Constantakes, spokesman for the New York Health Department, says that all of the confirmed human cases in the state have been in the Central part of the state.

Through July 3rd of this year, 7 mosquito pools in the New York tested positive for the virus. 3 were located in Erie County, 1 in Onondaga County, 2 in Rockland County, and 1 in Suffolk County.

In 2011, a report from the CDC showed that 712 human cases of the virus were discovered in all 50 states, and 43 died from the disease.

Symptoms for West Nile Virus include headache, and fever, but Merridith O’Leary of the Pittsfield Health Department says that only a small number of those infected with the virus show symptoms.

The CDC recommends wearing insect repellent on clothing when outside spray, draining and removing standing water on property, installing window screens, and state participation in screening programs.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.