Rainy summer increases West Nile virus concerns
Receding floodwaters and heavy rains are creating a perfect storm of conditions that have contributed to the highest level of West Nile virus activity in the state’s mosquito population since the disease was first discovered here in 2000, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
The disease, which has infected more than 150 people in the past six years, is on track to pose a higher-thannormal risk in 2018 and is widespread throughout the commonwealth, having already been found in 54 counties including Luzerne, Carbon and Schuylkill.
Last month, officials reported the detection of the first human case of West Nile virus in an Allegheny County man in his 70s.
DEP and county partners throughout the state conduct routine, localized spraying events to control infected adult populations of mosquitoes. These operations are conducted when and where deemed necessary based on recent population survey results, but they are not a substitute for preventive measures like eliminating standing, stagnant water. As part of the state budget, a $140,000 increase was added to the mosquito surveillance program.
Symptoms of West Nile virus in humans are typically like those of a mild flu, but the virus can lead to a more serious condition that includes swelling of the brain, muscle convulsions, coma, paralysis and death. Since DEP first began monitoring for the virus in 2000, 33 fatal cases have been reported in Pennsylvania.
Residents are urged to take common-sense precautions to protect themselves from mosquitoes. By eliminating places for mosquitoes to lay eggs, using insect repellent and other protective measures, and targeted use of pesticides, we can all make sure Pennsylvanians are protected.
For more information about West Nile virus, visit www.westnile.state.pa.us.
REP. TARAH TOOHIL isa Republican who represents the 116th District in the state House of Representatives.