Two Massachusetts residents contracted the mosquito-borne West Nile virus in the state's first human cases this year.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced Tuesday, August 29, that a woman in her 70s in another part of the country was exposed to the virus and a man in his 40s in Middlesex County, Massachusetts was exposed to the virus was.
Authorities found the virus to be at a moderate level of risk in the greater Boston area, which includes Middlesex County, Norfolk County and Suffolk County, as well as parts of Bristol County, Plymouth County, Worcester County, Hampden County, Hampshire County and the Berkshire borough .
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“This is the first time West Nile virus infection has been reported in Massachusetts residents this year,” said Dr. Robert Goldstein, Commissioner for Public Health.
Goldstein said August and September are the months with the highest risk of contracting the deadly virus.
“The mosquito populations that can transmit and spread this virus are quite large this year, and we've seen an increase in the number of WNV-positive mosquito samples from several parts of the Commonwealth recently,” Goldstein said.
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In 2022, eight human cases of West Nile virus infection were identified in Massachusetts, with the first being announced on August 25. The first case of 2021 occurred on September 1st.
Since West Nile virus first entered the United States in 1999, it has become the leading cause of infection mosquito-borne disease in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In most cases it is West Nile virus – a flavivirus in the same family as yellow fever. Dengue feverJapanese encephalitis and the Zika virus — are spread when Culex mosquitoes bite infected birds and then humans and other animals, according to the CDC website.
The virus is not transmitted by eating or handling infected animals or birds, nor is it spread through physical contact, coughing or sneezing.
The vast majority — around 80% — of people who contract WNV have no symptoms, the CDC's website says.
“These people would only know they were previously infected if blood antibodies were checked,” explained Dr. George Thompson, a professor of medicine at UCDavis Medical Center in Sacramento, in an email to Fox News Digital.
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About one in five people develops a febrile illness, which is characterized by fever and body aches, headaches, joint pains, diarrhea, skin rashes and/or vomiting. These symptoms usually go away on their own, but they may persist in some people weakness and fatigue months after infection.
In rare cases – around one in 150 people infected – the virus can lead to serious illnesses Effects on the nervous systemsuch as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord), the CDC explains on its website.
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Severe illness can include headache, stiff neck, high fever, disorientation, loss of vision, muscle weakness, convulsions, tremors, coma, or paralysis that occurs with a viral infection of the central nervous system.
Melissa Rudy contributed to this report.