Health officials in Allegheny County said one person has tested positive for West Nile virus – the only county in Pennsylvania to find it in a human – prompting other county officials in the southwestern portion of the state to begin testing for the virus.
Greene County Conservation District is warning residents that although there have been no reported human or animal infections of the West Nile virus in the county, the state as a whole is experiencing an increase in cases.
Nine mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile in 10 test sites around the county, according to Lisa Snider, district manager of the county’s conservation district. Three specific areas were highlighted – Mt. Morris, Carmichaels and Waynesburg – and those areas have been treated with more preventative measures to continue through the remainder of the summer. Large numbers of mosquitoes have been found in traps throughout the county.
West Nile cannot be spread by human-to-human contact, and Snider said positive samples should not cause undue worry. Less than 1 percent of all mosquitoes carry West Nile virus and 80 percent of people infected do not show symptoms.
“We’re not saying there’s any major concern, we just want residents to be aware and to protect themselves,” she said.
Snider added her office is being proactive because of the high number of positive samples throughout the state. They continue to analyze data to see if and when larger spraying events need to be conducted.
Across Pennsylvania, 57 of the state’s 67 counties have had positive samples for the disease. The state Department of Health has also announced that 15 counties have had infected dead birds.
There have been 47 total positives in Allegheny County and six in Washington County, according to the state.
Allegheny County’s one human case of the virus was reported in late July, according to the state’s West Nile Virus Control program. County officials previously said a Penn Hills man in his 70s was diagnosed in mid-July. He was taken to the hospital when he was first experiencing symptoms but has since been released to recover at home.
The Allegheny County Health Department collected positive samples in five neighborhoods: Hazelwood, Southside Flats, Southside Slopes, Mt. Washington and Beltzhoover. Treatment via a low-volume sprayer will begin Thursday from 8 to 10:30 p.m., with Monday as an alternate rain date.
Meanwhile, Washington County’s West Nile program is run through the Penn State Cooperative Extension Office in Fayette County, which covers both counties for monitoring and spraying. Kenn Hess, the educational program associate that handles West Nile virus for the department, was out setting traps Wednesday in Washington County.
He said there have been some positive tests, but not enough to be worried about at this point in time. He said those preliminary positives have mainly been in populated areas, “mostly where people are.” According to the state’s database, positive samples were found in Canonsburg, New Eagle, Monongahela and North Strabane Township, with two in Carroll Township.
“If people would reduce the habitats, that would be half the battle,” Hess said.
Hess is now conducting follow-up tests. After preliminary positive tests are found, Hess said more traps are set out in that area to see how bad the problem may be. If many infected mosquitoes are located, that’s when Hess said he would consider spraying. Hess said the sprays are a last resort and the first focus is eliminating mosquito habitats.
There currently is no plan to spray in Washington County.
Snider encouraged residents to clear their properties of any potential mosquito breeding grounds.
“The best thing to do is get rid of any standing, stagnant water around your property,” she said. “And if you’re planning on being outside for any length of time, then use proper repellent and make sure to cover up with clothing, especially infants and younger children as well as older residents, as they are more likely to show symptoms.”
Other suggestions provided by the state’s West Nile Virus Control Program include:
- Disposing of containers that could hold water;
- Paying attention to water collecting in discarded tires;
- Drilling holes in recycling and other containers left outside;
- Cleaning clogged gutters;
- Turning over wading pools and wheelbarrows;
- Changing water in birdbaths;
- Making sure windows and doors have screens;
- Wearing shoes, socks, long pants and long-sleeved shirts if outside for long periods of time or when mosquitoes are active;
- Using mosquito repellents.
For more information, visit the state’s West Nile website at www.westnile.state.pa.us or call 1-877-PA-HEALTH.