The first report of human cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) in 2012 has been reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The announcement comes as the Allegheny County Health Department steps up its mosquito spraying in several city neighborhoods.
A Franklin County woman was hospitalized with meningitis and is currently recovering and a woman from Lancaster County was diagnosed with West Nile Fever and is also recuperating. Both of their illnesses were directly related to WNV.
Statewide sampling shows higher numbers of infected mosquitoes than any summer since monitoring began ten years ago, which is likely due to last year's mild winter. As a result, Pennsylvania is at risk for experiencing a greater number of human illnesses in 2012 than in recent years. Cases usually increase in the fall as birds begin to migrate south and mosquitos turn to humans.
The Department of Environmental Protection conducts frequent surveillance of the mosquitos throughout the state. So far this year, the DEP has detected WNV-infected mosquitoes in 42 counties including Allegheny. Efforts to control the population are ongoing will continue through October.
Mosquitoes generally breed in areas with stagnant water such as urban catch basins, clogged gutters, discarded tires, poorly maintained swimming pools, flowerpots, and other plastic containers.
Simple steps to eliminate standing water include:
· Removing any containers, pots, tires, or other objects that could collect water and drill holes in the bottom of recycling bins left outside.
· Have roof gutters cleaned every year, especially if leaves from nearby trees have a tendency to clog the drains.
· Turn plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows upside down when not in use.
· Do not let water stand in birdbaths.
· Aerate ornamental pools, or stock them with fish.
· Clean and chlorinate swimming pools and remove stagnant water from pool covers.
· Treat standing water that cannot be eliminated.
The pests are most active at dawn and dusk, although they can bite at any time of the day. Mosquito bites can be avoided by using insect repellants and by covering exposed skin with lightweight clothing. Window and door screens in good condition can be used in the home to prevent the bugs from entering.
For more information and a fact sheet on the WNV, including symptoms, visit the Department of Health's website.