, Gloucester, MA

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August 5, 2013

Beverly tests show West Nile closing in

BEVERLY — A batch of mosquitoes collected in Beverly last week has tested positive for West Nile virus.

The discovery, announced Friday by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, emphasized that no human or animal cases of the virus have been identified this year in Beverly, or elsewhere on the North Shore.

But while neither state nor local health officials indicated where in Beverly the disease-carrying sampling of mosquitoes was found, the report brings West Nile the closest yet this season to Cape Ann. The Beverly Farms area borders on the town of Manchester — the only one of Cape Ann’s four communities that has signed on this year to participate in the Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control District.

Beverly health officials said they will “consider” targeted spraying for mosquitoes.

“The city of Beverly has worked closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control District throughout this season to reduce the risk of illness spread by mosquitoes,” William Burke, Beverly’s public health director, wrote in a prepared statement. “Mosquito pools are tested twice weekly from May to September in order to help identify infected mosquitoes. In addition, larvicide treatment of catch basins (where certain mosquitoes lay their eggs) was performed throughout the city.”

Spread through mosquitoes, West Nile virus can cause illness ranging from a mild fever to more serious disease such as encephalitis or meningitis, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

While the majority of people infected with West Nile exhibit no symptoms, a small percentage exhibit flu-like symptoms and less than 1 percent of people infected with West Nile develop severe illness. The elderly are more at risk of developing severe illness, health officials say.

The confirmation means that Beverly is among six Essex county towns where health officials have collected West Nile-positive mosquitoes over the past month; the others are Amesbury, Lynn, Merrimac, Newbury and Rowley.

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