The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued a report on the early discovery of the year’s first mosquito carrying the West Nile virus in Pennsylvania. The infected mosquito was found May 3 in Exeter Township, Berks County.
Typically, the state’s first West Nile virus-carrying mosquito is found in mid-June, but the unseasonably warm weather in March caused the virus cycle to begin early this year. The virus has also been detected in mosquitoes in Luzerne, Dauphin and Beaver counties, in a bird in Erie County, and in a horse in Northampton County.
West Nile virus is spread by the bite of a mosquito that acquired the virus from the blood of an infected bird. The virus can cause encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Last year, West Nile virus was detected in 59 counties in Pennsylvania, resulting in six human cases statewide.
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 have the highest risk of becoming ill and developing severe complications.
The best way to prevent the spread of West Nile virus is to eliminate mosquito breeding areas.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water around homes, weeds, tall grass, shrubbery and discarded tires, so DEP encourages residents to:
- Dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers that hold water on one’s property.
- 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 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 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.
DEP also suggests homeowners can buy Bti products at lawn and garden, outdoor supply, home improvement and other stores to treat stagnant pools of water. Bti is naturally occurring bacteria that kills mosquito larvae but is safe for people, pets, aquatic life and plants.
For more information about West Nile virus and the state’s surveillance and control program, visit westnile.state.pa.us.
By Rep. Tarah Toohil