State re­ports first hu­man West Nile virus case of year

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Kayla Dwyer

The Penn­syl­va­nia Depart­ment of Health is re­port­ing the state’s first prob­a­ble hu­man case of West Nile virus in 2019.

The virus has been de­tected in a Philadel­phia res­i­dent, the state an­nounced, and sam­ples are be­ing tested for con­fir­ma­tion.

So far this year, 32 Penn­syl­va­nia coun­ties have had mos­qui­toes test pos­i­tively for the virus. Ten mos­qui­toes have tested pos­i­tive in Le­high County and four in Northamp­ton County as of Sept. 18, as doc­u­mented by the state’s West Nile Virus Con­trol Pro­gram.

By last year’s end, Penn­syl­va­nia re­ported 130 hu­man cases of West Nile virus. This year, New Jersey re­ported its first hu­man case in early July — the ear­li­est con­firmed hu­man case in the state’s his­tory.

The virus tends to flare up in the sum­mer and con­tinue in­fect­ing hu­mans into the fall, ac­cord­ing to the Health Depart­ment. The dis­ease main­tains it­self in na­ture as mos­qui­toes bite and in­fect birds, which in­fect other mos­qui­toes that also feed on those birds. Then the mos­qui­toes bite hu­mans and an­i­mals.

Most peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence no symp­toms of the virus, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. One in five of the in­fected may ex­pe­ri­ence mild symp­toms such as headache, body aches, nau­sea, vom­it­ing, rash, with fa­tigue some­times last­ing for weeks or months. In rare cases, the dis­ease can cause en­cephali­tis, an in­flam­ma­tion of the brain, or menin­gi­tis.

The state warns that mosquitos in­fected with West Nile tend to be most ac­tive at dawn and dusk. They breed in ar­eas with stag­nant wa­ter, from clogged gut­ters to flow­er­pots to poorly main­tained swim­ming pools.

In ad­di­tion to the ob­vi­ous fixes — clean­ing out gut­ters, re­mov­ing stand­ing wa­ter from pool cov­ers, turn­ing over dis­carded tires — the Health Depart­ment also of­fers th­ese tips for re­duc­ing mosquito ex­po­sure and in­fes­ta­tion:

Drill drainage holes in the bot­tom of re­cy­cling con­tain­ers left out­doors.

Aerate or­na­men­tal pools, or stock them with fish.

Clean and chlo­ri­nate swim­ming pools.

Use land­scap­ing to elim­i­nate stand­ing wa­ter that col­lects on your prop­erty.

Treat stand­ing wa­ter that can­not be re­moved with Bti prod­ucts, sold at out­door sup­ply and home im­prove­ment stores. Bti is a nat­u­ral prod­uct that kills mosquito lar­vae but is safe for peo­ple, pets, fish and plants.

The virus was first de­tected in North Amer­ica in 1999 and in Penn­syl­va­nia in 2000, the year the state’s West Nile Virus Con­trol Pro­gram be­gan.

Morn­ing Call re­porter Kayla Dwyer can be reached at 610-820-6554 or at kd­[email protected] mcall.com.

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