The Departments of Environmental Protection and Health Friday report the confirmation of the first 2015 detections of West Nile Virus from a mosquito sample that was collected on May 22 in Springettsbury Township, York County and a bird found May 26 in Harris Township, Centre County.
“DEP vigilantly monitors the mosquito population across Pennsylvania. When West Nile Virus is identified, DEP staff works quickly to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley. “Today’s announcement serves as a reminder that all Pennsylvanians should take precautions to protect against mosquitos.”
Pennsylvania began its integrated pest management program in 2004, and has since improved identification and control of mosquito populations. The program routinely surveys counties based on historical West Nile Virus presence. When necessary, DEP treats impacted areas using effective and safe control substances.
Certain mosquito species carry the virus, which may cause humans to contract West Nile fever or West Nile encephalitis, an infection that can result in inflammation of the brain. Last year, West Nile Virus was detected in 39 counties and resulted in 13 human cases, including one fatality.
Although most people do not become ill when infected with West Nile Virus, all are at risk. Older adults and those with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk of becoming ill and developing severe complications.
“The Department of Health will be following the incidence of the virus,” said Department of Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy. “We encourage all to use caution prior to spending time outdoors.”
The best defense against West Nile Virus is to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water around homes, weeds, tall grass, shrubbery, and discarded tires.
Homeowners should take precautionary measures including:
— Dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or similar containers that hold water.
— Drill drainage holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers.
— Have roof gutters cleaned regularly, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to block drains.
— Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use.
— Turn over wheelbarrows and do not let water stagnate in birdbaths.
— Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
— Clean and chlorinate swimming pools and remove any water that may collect on pool covers.
Homeowners can buy mosquito control substances, such as Bti products, at lawn and garden, outdoor supply, and other stores. Bti is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that kills mosquito larva but is safe for people, pets, aquatic life, and plants.
Additionally, these simple precautions can prevent mosquito bites, particularly for people who are most at risk:
— Make sure screens fit tightly over doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
— Consider wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks when outdoors, particularly when mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, or in areas known for having large numbers of mosquitoes.
— When possible, reduce outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk during peak mosquito periods.
— Use insect repellants according to the manufacturer’s instructions. An effective repellent will contain DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Consult with a pediatrician or family physician if you have questions about the use of repellent on children, as repellant is not recommended for children under the age of two months.For more information about the state’s surveillance and control program, visit the West Nile Virus website.