News

Pennsylvania is having its worst outbreak of West Nile virus in 15 years

Written by Jim Hook/The Chambersburg Public Opinion | Oct 10, 2018 5:09 AM
west_nile_mosquitoes2.jpg

FILE PHOTO: Mosquitos are sorted at the Dallas County mosquito lab in Dallas. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)

(Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania is seeing its worst outbreak of West Nile virus in 15 years.

The state reports 72 human cases so far. Three people in Pennsylvania have died from the virus -- one each in Lebanon, Lancaster and Westmoreland counties, according to the state Health Department.

Franklin County ranks No. 2 with eight human cases behind Philadelphia with 11.

Southcentral Pennsylvania has seen 22 confirmed human cases of West Nile virus - eight in Franklin, five in Lebanon, five Lancaster, two York and one each in Adams and Dauphin counties.

Human cases spike late in the season. Birds migrate out of the area, and mosquitoes seek a blood meal elsewhere. Certain mosquito species spread West Nile virus.

The state's West Nile virus surveillance and control program has wrapped up for the season, according to a spokeswoman with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

he season ends when a killing frost puts an end to mosquito activity. The first frost for southcentral Pennsylvania appears to be a week or two away, according to Accuweather's extended forecast.

dmlo_west_nile_birds4.jpg

An Asian Tiger Mosquito, which breeds in standing water, is near water droplets in Anderson. The mosquito is known for the ability to spread West Nile Virus to humans after coming into contact with native birds and horses. (Photo: Ken Ruinard)

At the height of the West Nile human infection in 2003, the state had 237 human cases, including nine deaths. The virus was first noticed in 2000 in Pennsylvania. The previous high after 2003 had been 60 cases with four deaths in 2012.

The state program in 2018 also reported the virus in 70 horses, 106 birds and 4,680 mosquito samples.

The wet summer has contributed to the severity of West Nile virus.

According to the Department of Health, all residents in areas where virus activity has been identified are at risk of contracting West Nile encephalitis. Up to 20 percent of people bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile will get symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, rash and swollen lymph glands. The symptoms typically last only a few days. For one in 150 people the mosquito bite can develop into a life-altering illness.

Residents can eliminate habitat by getting rid of standing and stagnant water where mosquitoes lay eggs.  
 
Use of commonly sold insect repellents, such as DEET or Picaridin, can also cut down on mosquito bites and possible exposure to the virus. Long pants and sleeves can cut down on exposure.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The Chambersburg Public Opinion

Published in News

Tagged under , , , , , , , ,

back to top

Give Now

Estate Planning

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Smart Talk

National Edward R. Murrow Awards

DuPont Columbia Awards

Support Local Journalism

Latest News from NPR

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »