It's been a week since a mosquito carrying West Nile Virus was discovered in South Whitehall Township, Lehigh County and risk of the illness is now higher because of recent heavy rains.
Residents are urged to get rid of standing water where mosquitoes could breed on their property.
Early in May, Pennsylvania reported the earliest detection of a West Nile virus-carrying mosquito since testing began in 2000. The infected mosquito was found May 3 in Exeter Township, Berks County. No human cases of the ilness have been reported in the state yet this year.
Unseasonably warm weather in March gave the virus cycle an early start this year, according to DEP officials. Typically, the state’s first West Nile Virus-carrying mosquito is found in mid-June.
Certain mosquito species carry the virus, which may cause humans to contract West Nile fever or West Nile encephalitis, an infection that can result in inflammation of the brain.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water around homes, weeds, tall grass, shrubbery and discarded tires.
Last summer, Lehigh County was designated a "hot zone" for West Nile.
Take these precautions to help eliminate mosquito-breeding areas, including:
- Dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers that hold water on your property.
- Properly dispose of discarded tires that can collect water. Stagnant water is where most mosquitoes breed.
- Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers. Have roof gutters cleaned regularly, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to block drains.
- Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use. Turn over wheelbarrows and don’t let water stagnate in birdbaths.
- Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools not in use and remove any water that may collect on pool covers.
- For stagnant pools of water, homeowners can buy Bti products at lawn and garden, outdoor supply, home improvement and other stores. Bti is a naturally occurring bacteria that kills mosquito larva but is safe for people, pets, aquatic life and plants.
Additionally, these tips can help prevent mosquito bites:
- 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.
- Use insect repellants according to the manufacturer’s instructions. An effective repellant will contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
- Consult with a pediatrician or family physician if you have questions about the use of repellant on children, as repellant is not recommended for children under the age of two months.
For more information about West Nile virus and the state’s surveillance and control program, visit www.westnile.state.pa.us.