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First case of West Nile virus reported

A Plymouth County man in his 70s has become the first person in the state this year to be diagnosed with West Nile virus. The man was hospitalized but is recovering, the Department of Public Health announced Monday.

It is high season for the mosquito-borne disease, which can cause fever and flulike symptoms. While the virus poses the highest risk to people over age 50, most infected with West Nile will have no symptoms.

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Last year, 33 people were diagnosed with the disease, starting in mid-August. In an unusual case, a Worcester man with other health problems died of West Nile in September. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a surge in West Nile cases in 2012, with outbreaks in several states.

West Nile is the less dangerous of two viruses transmitted by mosquitoes that are now an unfortunate marker of summer’s end for Massachusetts residents. The state announced last week that a Norfolk County woman in her 80s died of Eastern equine encephalitis, which last year killed three people in Massachusetts.

“Residents need to continue to take steps to protect themselves against mosquito bites: Use insect repellent, cover up, and avoid outdoor activities at dusk and after nightfall when mosquitoes are at their most active,” Dr. Catherine Brown, the state’s public health veterinarian, said in a press release.

The state also recommends fixing any damaged window screens and eliminating mosquito breeding areas around the home by getting rid of standing water in wading pools, bird baths, or tires.

The Department of Public Health regularly updates a risk map for both diseases on its website. Eastern equine encephalitis risk remains low in most of the state, with pockets of higher risk around Belchertown, where two horses had the disease recently, and in Norfolk and Plymouth counties.

Chelsea Conaboy can be reached at cconaboy@
boston.com
. Follow her on Twitter @cconaboy.
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