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Two new human cases of West Nile Virus detected in Massachusetts

Two new human cases of West Nile virus have been detected in Essex and Middlesex counties bringing the state’s total this year to six human cases and one animal case, Massachusetts public health officials said Tuesday.

The virus was found in a woman in her 70′s who was exposed in Essex County, and a man in his 60′s who was exposed in Middlesex County, according to a statement from the state Department of Public Health.

The cases bring the state total for this year up to six, one more than last year, the state said.

Due to the new cases, nine communities in Essex County are now considered moderate risk for infection; including Boxford, Essex, Georgetown, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester, Newbury, Rowley, and Topsfield, health officials said. There are 27 towns and cities across Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, and Suffolk County, however, at high risk for infection, the state said.

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“There are large numbers of mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus right now in parts of Massachusetts due to a nearly perfect combination of periodic rain and warm temperatures,” said acting Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke. “All six of our human cases have been in people over the age of 50. It is especially critical that people at risk for severe disease, such as those over 50 and anyone with immune compromise, remember to take steps to prevent mosquito bites anytime they are outdoors.”

No deaths have been linked to West Nile WNV so far this year, the state said.

The virus can infect people of all ages, but adults over the age of 50 are at higher risk for developing severe illness, officials said. Most infected individuals develop no symptoms.

State health officials recommend precautions to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses; which can include wearing mosquito repellent or long sleeves outdoors, installing screens in windows, draining still water where mosquitoes lay eggs, and taking extra precautions during peak mosquito hours at dusk and dawn.

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Katie Redefer can be reached at katie.redefer@globe.com.