The Mass. Dept. of Public Health has raised the West Nile virus risk level classification from low to moderate in several Berkshire County communities, including the South County towns of Stockbridge, West Stockbridge, Lee, Lenox and Washington. West Nile virus is most commonly spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito.

While there have been nearly 80 mosquitoes found to have tested positive for the disease in Mass. this season, the Dept. reports that as of July 30 there have been no human cases of West Nile virus reported.

According to the Dept.’s website, about 80% of people who are infected with WNV will have no symptoms. A smaller number of people will have symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands. They may also develop a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.

Less than 1% of people infected with WNV will develop severe illness, including encephalitis or meningitis.  Persons older than 50 years of age have a higher risk of developing severe illness.

The Dept. recommends protecting yourself by doing simple things: using insect repellents; wearing long-sleeved clothing; scheduling outdoor activities to avoid the hours around dawn and dusk during peak mosquito season; repairing damaged window and door screens; and removing standing water from the areas around your home.