State reports first human West Nile virus case of year
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.