Nashua mosquitoes test positive for West Nile

According to the New Hampshire Department of Heath and Human Services, three batches of mosquitoes in Nashua recently tested positive for the West Nile virus.

NASHUA — Flu-like symptoms such as fatigue and fever are common for those afflicted with the West Nile virus, which state regulators classified as a “public health threat” after mosquitoes in Nashua and elsewhere recently tested positive.

“Based on our surveillance information, we believe there is an increased risk for human illness in the southern part of the state,” New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers said Thursday.

By making the public health threat declaration, the impacted municipalities throughout the state will have an easier time taking mosquito-control measures, according to state officials.

“Neighboring states have reported cases in humans, including one in Maine and four in Massachusetts,” Meyers said. “We are being proactive in New Hampshire, especially as we head into the fall, when mosquito-borne illnesses are most common.”

According to Nashua Environmental Health Officer Heidi Peek-Kukulka, the three mosquito batches testing positive for West Nile in the city came from a single location.

“One of the challenges that we face is that our after-school athletic programs, where you’ve got kids out after dark,” Peek-Kukulka said. “We advise people when it becomes mosquito season that they should avoid being outside from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most likely to bite.”

She does not believe the city will spray to mitigate the mosquitoes, however, as she said the risk to humans in the city is relatively low.

“Nashua is harder to spray than say, Amherst, in some ways,” Peek-Kukulka said. “You have to consider that we are an urban environment and that we have a lot of rural space next to us and we need to be very mindful and respectful of other creatures that could be affected, like the bee population. It’s a very carefully considered action.”

In addition to Nashua, the declaration affects these cities and towns:

Amherst, Atkinson, Auburn, Bedford, Brentwood, Candia, Chester, Danville, Derry, Epping, Fremont, Goffstown, Hampstead, Hollis, Hooksett, Hudson, Kingston, Litchfield, Londonderry, Manchester, Merrimack, Newton, Pelham, Plaistow, Raymond, Salem, Sandown and Windham.

To prevent the spread of the virus, officials recommend wearing long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk, as well as removing standing water from around their homes. Peek-Kukulka also suggests residents make sure their screens and doors remain closed so that mosquitoes do not enter.

West Nile symptoms usually appear within a week after a person has been bitten by an infected mosquito. However, many people can be infected and not develop any symptoms, or only develop very mild ones. Symptoms may include flu-like illness including fever, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue. Additionally, a very small percentage of those infected go on to develop more serious central nervous system disease, including meningitis or encephalitis.

If anyone has questions about WNV, they should call the New Hampshire Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at 603-271-4496.