Data from the state agency charged with keeping tabs on the area’s mosquito population suggests that Massachusetts could be in for another season of swatting and scratching, or worse.
On top of their irksomeness, mosquitoes could carry deadly diseases such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis or the West Nile Virus. State public health veterinarian Dr. Catherine Brown said the preliminary data the state has on this year’s crop of mosquitoes shows higher levels of the breeds most likely to transmit disease.
“Given the intensity of what we saw last year, we’re certainly particularly worried about triple-E,” Brown said, adding that West Nile Virus is less dependent on what happened the year before.
“We’re going into the season with a lot of water and since mosquitoes need water to breed, that’s kind of not in our favor. It’s in the mosquitoes favor,” Brown said at a press conference in Boston to discuss the state's mosquito preparations.
Forecasting severity is difficult
Forecasting how this season will be, Brown said, is very complicated and depends on a number of factors including the mosquito population, weather and the presence of birds already infected with the diseases. Further trapping and testing by officials will be needed before experts will have a solid idea of what to expect this mosquito season, she said. One notification of West Nile Virus has been found this year among tested mosquitoes, according to Brown.
Brown said last year’s uptick in mosquito-borne illnesses was due to the season’s prolonged extreme heat and wetness.
“We can already see this year that things are very different,” Brown said, with a cool, wet spring in New England. Still, the high rates of disease last year have officials on guard.
According to Brown, awareness and repellent are the best ways to prevent the spread of the diseases and as the summer progresses and more cases of infected mosquitoes are found, DPH will start encouraging people to wear pants and long sleeves shirts and to avoid being outside between dusk and dawn.
“When there’s an extreme level of risk, we may even start to recommend people avoid evening outdoor activities during those peak activity hours,” Brown said.