Pennsylvania Steps Up Spraying to Combat West Nile

As tests indicate this year may see a spike in West Nile Virus cases similar to 2003, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced it will increase spraying in four southeastern counties this week to combat mosquito populations that have or are most likely to carry the virus. One human case of the virus has been confirmed this year, a 27-year-old Montgomery County woman, but 237 Pennsylvanians were infected in 2003, and positive tests in mosquito pools this year are above average, according to the department.

"With nearly 70 percent of the state's infected mosquitoes here in the southeast region, we're taking coordinated action to reduce this threat," said Joseph A. Feola, southeast DEP regional director. "In order to protect the public, DEP is temporarily reassigning certified pesticide applicators from other parts of the state so that we can be more aggressive in our treatment efforts." More frequent evening spraying will take place in Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties, with only the areas with mosquitoes that are capable of carrying the virus being sprayed. West Nile Virus was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2000.

The virus can cause West Nile encephalitis, an infection that can result in brain inflammation, when transmitted to people. To eiminate mosquito-breeding areas, CDC and other authorities recommend:

* Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, old tires, and other water-holding containers on your property.
* Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers.
* Have clogged roof gutters cleaned every year, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug drains. Roof gutters can produce millions of mosquitoes each season.
* Turn over plastic wading pools when they are not in use.
* Turn over wheelbarrows, and don't let water stagnate in birdbaths.
* 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.

To prevent being bitten by mosquitoes:

* Make sure screens fit tightly over doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
* Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks when outdoors, particularly when mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, or in areas known for having large numbers of mosquitoes.
* When possible, reduce outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk during peak mosquito periods, usually April through October.
* Use insect repellents according to the manufacturer's instructions. Consult a pediatrician or family physician if you have questions about the use of repellent on children because it is not recommended for children under the age of two months.

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