The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Health confirmed Friday that a mosquito has tested positive for carrying the West Nile virus in Dauphin County.
The mosquito tested positive for West Nile virus in Lower Paxton Township on May 13. This is the first positive detection for 2014.
“DEP is committed to monitoring the mosquito population, so that when the virus is identified, our staff are able to act quickly to prevent additional spread,” DEP Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo said.
According to a DEP news release, mid-June is typically when the West Nile virus season begins. Last year, West Nile virus was detected in 42 counties, resulting in 11 human cases reported 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 are at the highest risk of becoming ill and developing severe complications.
“During a time of year when we tend to spend more time enjoying the outdoors, we must remember to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” said Secretary of Health Michael Wolf. “There are easy steps we can all take to help keep our families healthy and safe.”
The best defense against West Nile virus is to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water around homes, weeds, tall grass, shrubbery and discarded tires.
Homeowners should also take other precautionary measures including:
- Dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers that hold water on your 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.
For stagnant pools of water, homeowners can buy Bti products at lawn and garden, outdoor supply, home improvement and other stores. Bti is a naturally occurring bacteria that kills mosquito larva but is safe for people, pets, aquatic life and plants.
Additionally, these simple precautions can prevent mosquito bites, particularly for people who are most at risk:
- Make sure screens fit tightly over doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
- Consider 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.
- When possible, reduce outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk during peak mosquito periods.
- Use insect repellants according to the manufacturer’s instructions. An effective repellant will contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Consult with a pediatrician or family physician if you have 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.