The most recent find of the West Nile virus was reported in Berks County on May 3, marking the earliest confirmation of a mosquito carrying the virus in Pennsylvania since testing began 12 years ago.
The unseasonably warm spring mean it’s time for Delaware County residents to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites and to eliminate any potential breeding places for mosquitoes such as pools of stagnant water. Delaware County Council and the Department of Intercommunity Health Coordination recently announced that the County’s surveillance and prevention program is underway.
“Typically, the first mosquito carrying West Nile in Pennsylvania is found in June, but this year, the warm weather caused the virus cycle to begin earlier,” said Dr. George Avetian, senior medical advisory of Delaware County. “We don’t know if that means we’ll see more cases, but it does mean we’re seeing earlier evidence of the virus so people should take precautions now, to keep from being bitten, and to make sure mosquitoes are not breeding in their backyards.”
For the twelfth year, Delaware County is conducting a mosquito control program to prevent the potential public health effects of the West Nile virus on county residents.
The program, funded through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), runs May through October, which is the high season for mosquito activity. By October the first frost of the year will kill off the mosquito population.
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne disease that can cause encephalitis, a brain inflammation. Infected mosquitoes pass the virus onto birds, animals and people. West Nile virus was first detected in North America in 1999 in New York and in Pennsylvania in 2000. In 2011, there were six cases of West Nile reported in Pennsylvania, and no deaths.
There are three components to the county’s West Nile virus program: surveillance and control through the Penn State Cooperative Extension and DEP, monitoring human cases through the state Department of Health, and monitoring the animal population through the state Department of Agriculture.
The Penn State Cooperative Extension, along with DEP, will set traps and monitor mosquito activity. Spraying will only occur if high numbers of mosquitoes are detected, and/or if mosquitoes test positive for West Nile virus.
However, the best prevention is to have residents eliminate standing water on private properties, which reduces the breeding.
The West Nile virus infects certain wild birds, usually crows. Reporting dead birds is a good way to identify West Nile virus activity in an area so control measures can minimize the spread of the virus. Residents of Delaware County are urged to protect themselves from West Nile virus.
“While there has already been an early detection of the West Nile virus, people can protect themselves from this disease,” Avetian said. “People should not have standing water on their property, trash containers should be covered so that no rain can accumulate in them, make sure that all windows and screens are tight in homes, so that mosquitoes can’t get through, and avoid mosquito-breeding areas such as marshes or ponds during peak mosquito hours, which are dusk, dawn, and after a rainstorm. If people follow these simple rules, they will be able to prevent catching the West Nile Virus.”
For information on the West Nile Virus, call (610) 891-5311 or visit www.westnile.state.pa.us.