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Health Officials Raise West Nile Virus Risk to High After Season’s First Death

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. One of those men has died, officials said in a statement.

Boston is among a handful of cities where state health officials have raised the West Nile Virus alert level to high. The others are Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop.

“As we enter Fall, and cooler temperatures approach,” said Dr. Catherine Brown, a state public health veterinarian, “it’s important to note that Massachusetts still is in peak season for possible West Nile virus infection for human infections.”

Brown said residents need to keep protecting themselves from mosquito bites by the usual methods: avoid outdoor activities at dusk and later, when the insects are most active; use bug spray and wear protective clothing.

For a full information sheet on West Nile Virus and how to protect yourself, please visit this page of the Boston Public Health Commission’s website.