Hot and humid summer nights also means mosquitoes are back in town and lurking. While those pesky mosquitoes can leave you itching and uncomfortable for days, Delaware County residents should know that some may carry the West Nile Virus.
So far this year the county has tested positive to four mosquito pools, including those in Darby Township, Ridley Township, Brookhaven Borough and Glenolden Borough, according to Lynda Rebarchak, the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) community relations coordinator for the southeast region.
According to Rebarchak, this isn't the first time the county has tested positive for the virus. In 2010, 188 positive mosquitoes were recorded with one documented case of West Nile affecting a human. Rebarchak said things were better in 2009 with only 17 positive mosquitoes and no human cases but in 2008, Delco had 107 positive mosquitoes with two human cases of West Nile.
"It generally depends on how wet of a spring we’ve had," explained Reberchak. And getting bit by a mosquito carrying the virus isn't all that rare, said Reberchak, but "it’s just that not everyone gets sick."
"All residents of areas where virus activity has been identified are at risk of getting West Nile encephalitis, although, folks over 50 have the highest risk of severe disease," stated Rebarchak.
According to Rebarchak, regular preventive measures should be taken from getting bit by a mosquito in areas that have tested positive which are: wear shoes, socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt when outdoors for long periods of time at dusk when mosquitoes are most active, and consider using a mosquito repellent.
But the best preventive measure, according to Rebarchak, is to keep areas around your home from becoming breeding grounds.
"Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water," said Reberchak. "Even a small bucket that has stagnant water in it for seven days can become home to up to 1,000 mosquitoes."
Reberchak provides these easy tips to eliminate any standing water:
- Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water holding containers that have accumulated on your property.
- Pay special attention to discarded tires that may have accumulated on your property.
- Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left out of doors. Drainage holes that are located on the container sides collect enough water for mosquitoes to breed in.
- Clean clogged roof gutters on an annual basis, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug up the drains. Roof gutters are easily overlooked but can produce millions of mosquitoes each season.
- Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use. A wading pool becomes a mosquito producer if it is not used on a regular basis.
- Turn over wheelbarrows and do not allow water to stagnate in birdbaths–both provide a breeding habitat for domestic mosquitoes.
- Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish. Water gardens are fashionable but become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used. A swimming pool that is left untended by a family that goes on vacation for a month can produce enough mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Be aware that mosquitoes may even breed in the water that collects on swimming pool covers.
About 20 percent of people infected by a West Nile-carrying mosquito may develop mild symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands, said Rebarchak.
But "most people who are infected with the West Nile virus will not have any type of illness," reassured Reberchak.
More severe infection of West Nile encephalitis or meningitis may include: headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. According to Rebarchak, it's estimated that one in 150 people infected with the West Nile virus will develop a more severe form of disease.
Symptoms of mild disease will generally last a few days while symptoms of severe disease may last several weeks, although neurological effects may be permanent, said Rebarchak.
There is no specific treatment or vaccine for West Nile virus infection. Most people fully recover from the virus.
The DEP will spray portions of Ridley and Darby townships as well as Glenolden, Brookhaven, Upland and Folcroft boroughs on Wednesday.
To view the most up-to-date numbers of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile Virus in the county, view the state's West Nile website here.