WHITMAN — Whitman residents were advised by reverse 911 calls on Friday, Aug. 4 that a positive test for West Nile Virus has been found in one of the town’s sample traps.
The finding makes Whitman one of 59 positive samples in 36 Massachusetts communities so far this year. While there are moderate zones of risk in eight counties — Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Sussex. Plymouth County, and the rest of the South Shore, the Cape and Islands remain in the low-risk category as of Monday, according to the Mass. Dept. of Public Health.
There have been no positive tests in either people or animals to date, the DPH reported.
Local health authorities said this week there is no cause to close athletic fields to public use as yet, but urged parents to take precautions of making sure family members use an insect repellent with DEET before outside activities between dusk and dawn.
“Unless it’s for [Eastern Equine Encephalitis] EEE, they don’t usually close down as far as the games and all that,” Whitman Health Agent Alexis Andrews said. “We do have an update on the [town] website, but it’s the usual plans in effect as far as taking precautions, but there aren’t any restrictions as yet.”
Hanson has not seen any test samples with positive WNV results at this point, according to Health Agent Matt Tannis on Monday.
“To limit exposure, it is recommended that residents avoid outdoor events between dusk and dawn, wear long pants, a long sleeve shirt and socks, use a repellent with DEET and remove areas of standing water around the home,” Whitman advised on its website whitman-ma.gov.
The Board of Health on Tuesday, Aug. 8, received the call from the DPH and notified Town Administrator Frank Lynam, who as the town’s public information officer, alerted residents about the positive test sample.
“He did a great job because it was out and he got the fact sheet out and everything,” said Health Board Administrative Assistant Elaine Williams.
Health Board Chairman Eric Joubert agreed.
“We did a good job on the website, too,” he said. “Spray before you play — and people shouldn’t wait for West Nile to be found anyway. Every year, it comes.”
Williams also indicated on the website that residents should contact Plymouth County Mosquito Control if they wish to have their neighborhood sprayed against mosquitoes.
“The town does not spray,” she said.
The board discussed advising youth sports coaches, perhaps through Recreation Director Oliver Amado Jr., to put out signs or to advise parents about the use of repellent with DEET. The state’s Children’s Protection Act already requires schools and day cares to have a mosquito control plan within their Integrated Pest Management plans.
“The Boston area is usually a focus of WNV activity, but this year we are seeing evidence of widespread WNV infection in mosquitoes with particularly significant activity in and around Worcester and in the Pioneer Valley,” DPH Deputy State Epidemologist Dr. Catherine Brown said. “I encourage everyone to use the tools of prevention, including applying mosquito repellent with an EPA-registered ingredient according to the directions on the label, wearing clothing to reduce exposed skin when weather permits, draining standing water to prevent mosquito breeding and repairing window screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home,” she said. Dr. Brown warned that “August and early September are when we see most of our WNV infections in people.”
WNV is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. In 2016, there were 16 human cases of WNV identified in Massachusetts.