MEDIA–This year's first detection of a West Nile virus-carrying mosquito in Pennsylvania was the earliest since testing began in 2000, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Several counties, including Delaware County, have now found infected mosquitos. Delco was fortunate to have no human cases of the virus last year and county officials are taking measures to replicate that success.
"Staff is working to keep the mosquitoes under control, but you can take some simple steps in your backyard to help," said Intercommunity Health Director Maureen Hennessey-Herman at last Wednesday's Delaware County Council meeting.
Herman has been coordinating the West Nile Surveillance and Control Program 13 years now.
Councilwoman Colleen Morrone offered tips on how to actively prevent West Nile virus around the house.
"It's important for people to take steps to reduce their risk of becoming infected," Morrone said.
Since 1999-2000, there have been 30,000 human cases of infection across the country. No one in Delco has died from the virus, but there have been 1,200 deaths nationwide in that time span, Herman said.
The Pennsylvania West Nile Virus Control Program offered these statistics:
- 30 in 150 people infected will develop a mild infection called West Nile fever. Symptoms: fever, headache, body aches, skin rash, swollen lymph glands.
- 1 in 150 persons infected will develop a severe infection called West Nile encephalitis. Symptoms: high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis.
- There is no treatment or vaccine. Those infected with a mild infection often fully recover in a few days. Symptoms of a severe infection can last several weeks, although neurological effects may be permanent and the infection can be fatal.
All are at risk, but older adults and those with compromised immune systems have the highest risk of a severe illness resulting from infection.
"We must be vigilant and we must be focused on prevention," said Delaware County Council Senior Medical Advisor Dr. George Avetion. "The best intervention is prevention."
For more information, visit www.westnile.state.pa.us or contact the Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH.