To head off West Nile Virus, the Allegheny County Health Department today begins to treat storm water catch basins in the Pittsburgh area with pesticides to combat the breeding of mosquitoes. The treatment will continue weekdays from 4:00-9:00 PM.
The bugs can carry the virus, which has already been detected in samples in Allegheny County this year. Four mosquitoes tested positive: three coming from Pittsburgh's East End and the other from Penn Hills.
Ron Voorhees, Interim Director of the County Health Department, said although there have been no reports of infected people, it is important to take precautions.
"We're not aware in any other parts of the state, but it certainly is something that happens at this time of year and we recommend, in addition to our own efforts, that people try to make sure that if there's standing water on their property that they try to empty that out to make sure mosquitoes don't have a place to breed," Voorhees said.
The Health Department expects to cover about 10,000 basins throughout the eastern and western wards of the city, as well as those on the North Side and South Side, which have a history of West Nile Virus activity.
Voorhees said they do their best to treat the entire area. "If there are some that are found to actually have West Nile Virus, they tend to go to those areas. We try to target it. We can't hit all the water in the county, so we try to target where we think it will have the biggest effect," Voorhees said.
The pesticides being used are non-toxic to people, pets, and aquatic life. They inhibit mosquito breeding and are deposited manually. Basins that have been treated are marked with bright green chalk.
Health officials said residents can help reduce the mosquito population by eliminating and treating breeding sites on their own property. Pesticides similar to that used by the department are available at hardware and home improvement stores.
"The main thing is that mosquitoes can be a nuisance, obviously, but people need to be aware that they can cause illness, and we recommend to the extent possible you try not to get bit," Voorhees said.