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Stoneham BOH: West Nile Spraying 'Not A Viable Option' For Town

The Stoneham Board of Health has not considered spraying to be the best option at this point in the season, according to

After the town recently learned that a Stoneham man had been diagnosed with West Nile Virus, the Board of Health has decided to forego the spraying option, according to Stoneham Health Agent John Fralick.

"At this time, the Board of Health has not considered spraying to be a viable option where it is so late in the warm season (2-3 weeks) and mosquito activity is gradually slowing down," Fralick said.

On Sept. 20, a 63-year-old Stoneham man was confirmed to have West Nile Virus; however, "the man has reportedly recovered fully," Fralick said. A reverse 911 call was initiated on Sept. 25 to notify the public about the human case of West Nile Virus in Stoneham, he said.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health's risk assessment level has been raised from "Moderate" to "High" in Stoneham and Winchester to raise awareness regarding this arbovirus in the closing weeks of the warm season, according to a Board of Health press statement.

It's unclear if there have been previous cases of West Nile Virus found in Stoneham, as Fralick could not verify this information.

While the town has opted not to spray to combat West Nile or Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), the Board of Health has placed a town-wide ban on all school and town-affilated outdoor events after 6 p.m. for the remainder of the season, as well as increased public education via all town media including local newspapers and Stoneham TV, according to Fralick. The ban will be lifted with the coming of first frost, he said.

Two Stoneham High School football games scheduled for Oct. 5 and Oct. 12 have been rescheduled to the following afternoons, according to Fralick.

Here is some information about West Nile Virus from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health:

What is West Nile Virus (WNV)?

West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-carried virus that can cause illness ranging from a mild fever to more serious disease like encephalitis or meningitis.  It was first identified in the United States in 1999.

How is WNV spread?

WNV is most commonly spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. More information about different types of mosquitoes that can spread WNV can be found on the MDPH website at www.mass.gov/dph/wnv.

WNV may also be spread through blood transfusion or organ transplant. In addition, there are rare reports of WNV being passed from pregnant or breastfeeding women, who are infected with WNV, to their babies. Since these reports are rare, the health effects on an unborn or breastfeeding baby are unclear and still being studied.

People do not become infected by having direct contact with other infected people, birds or animals. 

Why don’t I need to report dead birds anymore? 

From 2000 to 2008, MDPH collected reports and ran tests for WNV on dead birds in Massachusetts as one of several ways to monitor WNV activity across the state. In recent years, this method has become less useful for finding the virus. Many other states have discontinued dead bird reporting and testing. Mosquito collection and testing gives the most reliable indication of current WNV activity and this is where monitoring activities will continue to be focused.

Dead birds are no longer being tested for WNV and do not need to be reported to MDPH. Dead birds can be safely disposed of in the trash. Using gloves, a shovel or plastic bags covering your hands, the dead bird should be double-bagged and placed in the trash. You should then wash your hands.

What are the symptoms of WNV?

The majority of people who are infected with WNV (approximately 80 percent) will have no symptoms.

A smaller number of people who become infected (less than 20 percent) will have symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands. They may also develop a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.

Less than 1 percent of people infected with WNV will develop severe illness, including encephalitis or meningitis. The symptoms of severe illness can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis. Persons older than 50 years of age have a higher risk of developing severe illness.

How common is WNV in Massachusetts?

Because most people who are exposed to WNV have no symptoms, it is difficult to know exactly how many people have been infected. People who develop severe illness with WNV are most often reported. Between 2000 and 2010, 67 people were reported with WNV infection in Massachusetts. Six of these people died. Cases have been identified from around the state.

Is there any treatment for WNV?

There is no specific treatment for WNV infections. People with mild WNV infections usually recover on their own. People with severe WNV infections almost always require hospitalization. Their symptoms may last several weeks and neurological effects may be permanent. Approximately 10 percent of people who develop severe illness will die from the infection.

What can you do to protect yourself from WNV?

Since WNV is most commonly spread by mosquitoes, here are some things you can do to reduce your chances of being bitten:

  • Schedule outdoor events to avoid the hours between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • When you are outdoors, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and socks. This may be difficult to do when the weather is hot, but it will help keep mosquitoes away from your skin.
  • Use a repellent with DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), permethrin, picaridin (KBR 3023), IR3535 (3-[N-butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid) or oil of lemon eucalyptus [p-menthane 3, 8-diol (PMD)] according to the instructions on the product label. 
  • DEET products should not be used on infants under two months of age and should be used in concentrations of 30 percent or less on older children. 
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under three years of age.
  • Permethrin products are intended for use on items such as clothing, shoes, bed nets and camping gear and should not be applied to skin.   
  • More information on choosing and using repellents safely is included in the MDPH Mosquito Repellents fact sheet which can be viewed online at www.mass.gov/dph/wnv. If you can’t go online, contact the MDPH at 617-983-6800 for a hard copy.
  • Keep mosquitoes out of your house by repairing any holes in your screens and making sure they are tightly attached to all your doors and windows.

Remove areas of standing water around your home. Here are some suggestions:

  • Look around outside your house for containers and other things that might collect water and turn them over, regularly empty them, or dispose of them. 
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left outdoors so that water can drain out.
  • Clean clogged roof gutters; remove leaves and debris that may prevent drainage of rainwater.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Change the water in birdbaths every few days; aerate ornamental ponds or stock them with fish.
  • Keep swimming pools clean and properly chlorinated; remove standing water from pool covers.
  • Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.

Previous coverage of West Nile Virus and EEE in the Stoneham area includes:

  • 2012 Human Cases of West Nile Virus in Massachusetts Surpass 2011
  • Middlesex County Man Infected by West Nile Virus
  • Mosquito Pool Near Stoneham Tests Positive For West Nile Virus
  • West Nile Virus Detected in Mosquito Pools Near Stoneham
  • Three More Human Cases of West Nile Virus Confirmed in Middlesex County
  • Report: Second Massachusetts Resident Dies from EEE
  • Stoneham Man Diagnosed With West Nile Virus; Town Bans Night Activities
  • 5 Things: West Nile Found in Stoneham; Gov. Patrick to Visit School

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