State health officials have detected in the town of Whitman the first mosquito of the summer carrying the West Nile virus, which can cause ailments including joint aches and nausea when passed to humans.
The mosquito was collected Tuesday and the State Laboratory Institute in Jamaica Plain confirmed the presence of the virus Friday, the Department of Public Health said in a prepared statement.
“Today’s findings are a reminder of the importance of protecting ourselves and our families from the threat of mosquito-borne illness,” said Dr. Catherine Brown, the state public health veterinarian.
“Make it a habit to apply bug spray before heading out or wear long sleeves or pants if weather permits, and head inside if you find you’re getting bitten by mosquitoes,” Brown added.
No human cases of West Nile have been detected this year in the Bay State, but there were 33 reported in 2012, the department said.
The virus is usually transmitted to humans through a mosquito bite and can infect anyone.
People over 50 are at a higher risk for severe health problems, the health department said.
About 20 percent of people who are infected develop a fever with other symptoms including headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Less than 1 percent of those infected will develop a serious neurological illness such as encephalitis or meningitis, according to the CDC.
A neurologic infection caused by the virus is fatal in about 1 in 10 cases, the CDC says.
State public health officials urge residents to be vigilant during the peak mosquito hours from dusk until dawn.