West Nile Virus Prevention for Students
Dear Deerfield Community,
Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) mosquito surveillance program documented a local mosquito as carrying West Nile Virus. While news of this sort understandably raises concern, it is not surprising for our area at this time of year. During the summer months, West Nile Virus (WNV) and the virus that causes Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) infect the local mosquito population, which can bite and transmit the viruses to humans. The vast majority of people who contract these viruses experience no symptoms. Of those who do develop symptoms, most are flu-like and mild. However, a very small number of people who contract these viruses can develop an infection of the brain called encephalitis which can be debilitating and deadly. Fortunately, despite their prevalence in the local mosquito population, development of the most severe forms of infection from these viruses is very low. Last year in Massachusetts there were only 16 human cases of West Nile encephalitis and no reported cases of EEE.
The best way to prevent these viruses is to avoid mosquito bites. Therefore, please send your child to school with an insect repellent (such as DEET for exposed skin; Permethrin for clothes). Please instruct them to use it when outside, especially from dusk till dawn when mosquitos tend to bite. Also ask them to wear long sleeved clothes when possible. For more information regarding insect repellents and mosquito bite prevention please review the following information from the CDC.
Again, while MDPH’s recent finding is concerning, it is not surprising. The risk of any serious outcome is still very low—and with the commonsense interventions listed above this risk can be made even lower.
Please let us know at the Health Center if you have any questions. Listed below are some further resources from the CDC and MDPH regarding local mosquito borne illnesses and prevention for your review.
Bryant E. Benson MD, FAAP
Director of Medical Services
Deerfield Academy Health Center
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