Harrisburg – Recent rains and rising temperatures create the perfect conditions for mosquito breeding, and the state departments of Environmental Protection, Health and Agriculture today reminded residents to guard against mosquitoes and prevent the spread of West Nile virus.
“Last year proved to be a record season for West Nile virus in Pennsylvania,” Acting DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo said. “More than 3,400 mosquito samples tested positive for the virus, the most our department has ever identified.”
Abruzzo was joined by Secretary of Health Michael Wolf and Secretary of Agriculture George Greig at a press conference in Fort Hunter Park, Harrisburg. The event included demonstrations on mosquito control and surveillance, as well as educational information provided by subject matter experts and an individual once infected with West Nile virus.
In 2012, West Nile virus was detected in 52 counties. The first positive mosquito of 2012 was found in Berks County on May 3, the earliest incidence ever. Typically, the state’s first West Nile virus-carrying mosquito is found in mid-June.
DEP has been conducting mosquito surveillance since early May. So far, two mosquito samples and one avian specimen have tested positive for the virus.
“We know West Nile virus is among us and while we don’t want to discourage citizens from enjoying Pennsylvania’s great outdoors, we want to ensure you are equipped with tips and information to do it safely,” said Secretary of Health Michael Wolf.
Last year there were 60 human cases, including four fatalities.
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 most likely to become ill and develop severe complications.
“West Nile virus is a serious concern for humans, but it can also affect our animals, especially horses and birds,” said Agriculture Secretary George Greig. “Know the risks and follow the prevention tips to safeguard the health of your families and pets.”
Last year, there were 51 reported veterinary cases of West Nile virus and most of them were horses. Horse owners should contact veterinarians about the vaccine for West Nile virus.
The mosquitoes that transmit the virus breed in areas with standing and stagnant water. Eliminate standing water by:
• Removing tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, discarded tires or any other objects that could collect standing water.
• Drilling holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors.
• Cleaning roof gutters every year.
• Turning over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
• Changing water in birdbaths frequently.
• Aerating ornamental pools, or stocking them with fish.
• Cleaning and chlorinating swimming pools, and removing standing water from pool covers.
• Landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.
• Treating standing water that cannot be eliminated with Bti products, which are sold at outdoor supply, home improvement and other stores. Bti is a natural product that kills mosquito larvae, but is safe for people, pets, aquatic life and plants.
Prevent mosquito bites by:
- Ensuring screens fit tightly over doors and windows.
• 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.
• Reducing outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk during peak mosquito periods, through October.
• Using 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.