The Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Health are reporting the confirmation of the first 2016 detections of West Nile Virus from a Turkey Vulture found in Orrstown Borough, Franklin County, on May 17 and a Red-tailed Hawk found in Worth Township, Centre County, on May 2.
“DEP vigilantly monitors the mosquito population across Pennsylvania with a comprehensive surveillance and control network. When West Nile Virus is identified, DEP staff works quickly to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Today’s announcement serves as a reminder that all Pennsylvanians should take precautions to protect against mosquitos.”
In 2004, Pennsylvania began its integrated pest management program and has since improved identification and control of mosquito populations. The program routinely surveys counties based on historical West Nile Virus presence. DEP treats impacted areas using effective and safe control substances when necessary.
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 56 counties and resulted in 14 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 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.
- 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.
Preventing mosquito bites
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 West Nile Virus and the state’s surveillance and control program, visit www.westnile.state.pa.us.
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