RIDOH Reports First Human Case of West Nile Virus in 2021

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is announcing Rhode Island’s first human case of West Nile Virus in 2021. West Nile Virus is spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.

The person who tested positive was a resident of Providence County in their 50s who reported regular trips between Rhode Island and Massachusetts. This person is currently hospitalized after starting to experience symptoms of West Nile Virus approximately four weeks ago. Confirmatory testing was performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Common symptoms of West Nile Virus include fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash. Although many people who are infected with West Nile Virus show no symptoms, symptoms last for some people for several days or several weeks.


This is Rhode Island’s first human case of West Nile Virus since 2018. Connecticut has confirmed three West Nile Virus cases in humans and Massachusetts has confirmed seven human cases this year. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has confirmed five positive findings for West Nile Virus in mosquito traps this year. (No mosquito samples in Rhode Island have tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis – or EEE – which is another mosquito-borne illness.)

“Although we’re nearing the end of mosquito season in Rhode Island, the risk is still high because mosquito-borne diseases have had the opportunity to become more prevalent in the mosquito population throughout the summer,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. “Mosquitoes breed in water, so you should get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water, such as tires, planters, and old trash cans or recycling bins. You should also wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you are outside, especially at sunrise and sunset. A few simple precautions can help you stay healthy and safe when you are outdoors spending quality time with family and friends.”

Rhode Islanders should reduce their exposure to mosquitoes until the first hard frost. (A hard frost is when the air and the ground freeze below 32°F for three hours or below 28°F for two hours.)


Protect yourself:


  • Put screens on windows and doors. Fix screens that are loose or have holes.
  • At sunrise and sundown (when mosquitoes are most active), consider rescheduling outdoor activities. If you must be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and use bug spray.
  • Use EPA-approved bug spray with one of the following active ingredients: DEET (20-30% strength); picaridin, IR3535; and oil of lemon eucalyptus or paramenthane. Do not use bug spray with DEET on infants under two months of age. Children should be careful not to rub their eyes after bug spray has been applied on their skin. Wash children's hands with soap and water to remove any bug spray when they return indoors.


Get rid of mosquito breeding grounds:


  • Get rid of anything around your house and yard that collects water. Just one cup of water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes.
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts so that they can drain properly.
  • Remove any water from unused swimming pools, wading pools, boats, planters, trash and recycling bins, tires, and anything else that collects water, and cover them.
  • Remove or treat any shallow water that can accumulate on top of a pool cover.
  • Change the water in birdbaths at least once a week and rinse out birdbaths once a week.


More information about mosquito prevention is available online.


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