Local counties receive West Nile Virus grants

Counties in the 47th Senatorial District will receive state grants totaling more than $241,000 to combat the spread of the West Nile Virus (WNV), according to Senator Elder Vogel.

In an effort to combat the spread of the virus, the state Department of Environmental Protection awarded the following West Nile Virus Control Program grants: $164,816 to Allegheny County; $34,598 to Beaver County; and $42,000 to Lawrence County.

The local grants were part of nearly $2.2 million in grants by the DEP to 26 counties, which are slated to begin surveillance activities in early April.

Because of the mild winter and early spring, 2012 proved to be a record year for WNV in Pennsylvania. The first positive mosquito was discovered May 4, 2012, the earliest ever. That kicked off a year that brought the highest recorded numbers of human, bird, mosquito and veterinary positives since 2003.

In humans, the virus can cause West Nile fever and encephalitis, an infection that can cause inflammation of the brain and death. Most people bitten by an infected mosquito will never develop any symptoms, and only one person in 150 people with symptoms will develop the more serious West Nile encephalitis, according to the DEP.

Allegheny County reported 173 confirmed samples of WNV in 2012 (171 mosquito samples, 1 avian sample and 1 from another animal source). Beaver County reported 22 WNV samples from mosquitoes and Lawrence County reported 23 WNV samples from mosquitoes in 2012.

Local residents are encouraged to eliminate mosquito breeding areas to curb the spread of WNV:

  • Stagnant water in a wading pool, birdbath, wheelbarrow, discarded tire, trash can, or recycling container can become a place for mosquitoes to breed. Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property. Mosquitoes may breed in any puddle that lasts for more than four days.
  • Clean roof gutters every year, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug up the drains. Clogged roof gutters can produce millions of mosquitoes each season.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools not in use. A swimming pool left untended by a family on vacation for a month can produce enough mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on pool covers.
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