Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus have been detected in Massachusetts for the first time this year, state public health officials said on Wednesday.
The virus was identified in a mosquito sample collected on July 11 in Easton, a town in Bristol County. No human or animal cases have yet been reported, according to the Department of Public Health.
The announcement does not indicate an elevated risk level for the virus, officials said, beyond its regular, seasonal occurrence.
“West Nile virus is part of summer in Massachusetts, and we expect to see infected mosquitoes at this time of year,” Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke said in a statement. “Now is the time to start taking steps to avoid mosquito bites. While WNV can cause serious illness, there are things that you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.”
Last year, Massachusetts reported 11 human cases of West Nile virus, officials said. The virus, transmitted by infected mosquitoes, can cause a flu-like disease that may induce fever and serious illness — especially in individuals over the age of 50.
“Simple actions can help protect you from mosquito bites and the diseases they can cause,” Dr. Catherine Brown, the state epidemiologist, said in the statement.
She advised residents to take several steps to protect themselves, such as applying insect repellent when outdoors, wearing long-sleeves to reduce exposed skin, drain standing water; and install repair window screens.
Residents may monitor the virus activity on the state’s mosquito-borne disease webpages on mass.gov., Brown said.
Health officials have not yet changed any community advisories for West Nile virus, and risk levels remain “low” across the state.