Rainy sum­mer in­creases West Nile virus con­cerns

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - OPINION - rep. tarah toohil

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.

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