The Allegheny County Health Department will start treating storm water catch basins in Pittsburgh Monday with pesticide to combat mosquito breeding.
The pesticide, which is nontoxic to humans, pets and aquatic life, does not kill mosquitoes directly, but stops their maturation process. The mosquito eggs become stuck in a larvae stage and are eaten by other organisms.
Dr. Ronald Voorhees, acting director of the health department, said treating the water catch basins makes a serious impact on the mosquito population.
“Mosquitoes are a vector for West Nile Virus,” Voorhees said. “They can transmit other diseases as well, so we treat to reduce the probability that anyone could get West Nile Virus within the county.”
The health department will treat 10,000 catch basins in certain areas of Pittsburgh, including the eastern and western wards as well as the North and South sides, which have a history of West Nile Virus activity.
Voorhees said that with more mosquitoes comes the higher the risk of disease.
“We did get quite a number of mosquitoes last year who did test positive, and that’s why we try to reduce the overall number of mosquitoes because the fewer mosquito bites we have, the less likely it is that anybody will get West Nile Virus,” Voorhees said.
Human cases of West Nile Virus has been generally low over the years in Pennsylvania, with only 156 reported human infections since 2004. Last year saw 60 reported cases — making it the worst year on record since 2003, which had 237 cases, according to Pennsylvania’s West Nile Virus Control Program.
Crews will be working weekdays throughout the summer from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. until all catch basins have been properly treated.
The health department advises residents help reduce the mosquito population in their own backyards by emptying any containers holding stagnant water or replacing still water daily. Pesticides similar to that being used by the health department are available at hardware and home improvement stores.
Voorhees also suggested ways people can protect themselves against the bloodsucking insects.
“Wear long clothing and use mosquito repellent just to decrease the likelihood of a mosquito bite,” Voorhees said. “In many cases it’s just an itch, but in some cases could transmit a more serious disease.”