A mosquito pool in Jamaica Plain recently tested positive for West Nile Virus, reported the Boston Public Health Commission. While it is common to find West Nile Virus infected mosquitos around this time of year, and no human cases have been recorded, it is still important to remain vigilant to protect yourself. “It is typical to find West Nile Virus in Boston at this time of year due to the periods of hot weather,” said BPHC Medical Director Dr. Jennifer Lo via press release. “This does not mean the average person is at increased risk of getting WNV. However, people should still take simple precautions to avoid mosquito bites.”
WNV is most commonly transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito, but it actually poses a very low risk to most people.
A technician at the State Lab in Jamaica Plain examines a mosquito for West Nile Virus in July 2000. Credit: Darren McCollester via GettyImages
A Suffolk County man became the first human to die of West Nile Virus in the state this year. The news prompted the health officials to raise the alert level for the rare — but sometimes deadly — disease from moderate to high. State officials announced Tuesday the fourth and fifth confirmed cases of humans contracting the mosquito-borne illness. Both were men in their 60s.
The Boston Public Heath Commission said in a statement that recreational activities, including fishing and boating, may resume at Jamaica Pond following last month's detection of blue-green algae, which the Commission said was potentially fatal if ingested. The announcement comes after two consecutive weeks of testing showed algae concentration below the state-recommended limit of 70,000 cells/milliliter. However, residents looking for place to beat the summer heat with a cool evening swim can keep looking: Swimming has been banned in Jamaica Pond since 1975 because it serves as one of the city's backup water supplies, according to boston.com.
The level of toxic algae in closed-to-the-public Jamaica Pond has tripled since the last test. Humans and their pets must stay out of Jamaica Pond until officials give the all-clear. The state considers safe levels of this algae to be 70,000 cells per milliliter of water. Tests done Monday showed the Pond's figure to have risen to 240,000 cells per milliliter of water, according to a press release from the Boston Public Health Commission. The previous week the level stood at 81,576 cells/milliliter.
The big neighborhood news this week has been Jamaica Pond falling into the grip of a toxic bloom of blue-green algae. Some residents, though aware the Pond is closed, say they didn't realize the seriousness of the danger. Though officials say the toxin is not known to be absorbed through the skin, the blue-green algae is potentially deadly when ingested. Signage posted in multiple languages around the pond cautions residents to refrain from contact with the contaminated water, and advises pet owners to keep dogs a safe distance from the shore. Residents should refrain from entering the pond as contact to humans can result in eye irritation, organ damage, and in extreme cases, death, according to an advisory from the Boston Public Health Commission.