HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has reported the season’s first two detections of West Nile virus-carrying mosquitos since surveillance began in early May.
The infected mosquitos were collected May 22 in Harborcreek Township, Erie County and May 23 in Straban Township, Adams County.
Typically, the state’s first positive sample of West Nile virus (WNV) carrying mosquitos is found in mid-June.
“This early detection serves as a reminder that all residents should take proper precautions to protect against mosquitoes,” Acting DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo said. “Removing standing water from flower pots, bird baths and other vessels is an important first step in mosquito prevention.”
Last year proved to be a record year for WNV in Pennsylvania. The first positive mosquito was found May 3, 2012, the earliest ever. That kicked off a year that brought the highest recorded numbers of human, bird, mosquito and veterinary positives since 2003.
In 2004, Pennsylvania began its integrated pest management program, which has improved identification and control of mosquito populations. 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.
According to the Department of Health, although most people do not become ill when infected with WNV, all are at risk. Older adults and those with compromised immune systems have the highest risk of becoming ill and developing severe complications.
“As the warm weather approaches, it is important to take necessary steps to protect you and your loved ones from mosquito bites,” Secretary of Health Michael Wolf said. “Last year there were 60 human West Nile virus cases reported statewide, and while we encourage everyone to enjoy Pennsylvania’s beautiful outdoors, make sure safety is a top priority when doing so.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all residents in areas where virus activity has been identified are at risk of contracting West Nile encephalitis.
Individuals can take a number of precautionary measures around their homes to help eliminate mosquito-breeding areas, including:
- Dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers that hold water.
- Properly dispose of discarded tires that can collect water. Stagnant water is where most mosquitoes breed.
- Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers.
- Have clogged roof gutters cleaned every year, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug drains.
- Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use.
- Turn over wheelbarrows and don’t let water stagnate in birdbaths.
- Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools not in use and remove any water that may collect on pool covers.
- If a resident has stagnant pools of water on their property, they can buy BTI products at lawn and garden, outdoor supply, home improvement and other stores. This naturally occurring bacterium 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, usually April through October.
- Use insect repellants according to the manufacturer’s instructions. An effective repellant will contain DEET, picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil. Consult with a pediatrician or family physician for questions about the use of repellant on children, as repellant is not recommended for children under the age of two months.
For more information about WNV and the state’s surveillance and control program, visit www.dep.state.pa.us.