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Thursday, May 14, 2009


State Officials Remind People to Eliminate Standing Water to Reduce Risk of Disease

HARRISBURG � State officials today reported the first finding of West Nile Virus in Pennsylvania of 2009 � the earliest in years � and reminded residents of steps they can take to reduce the risk of being bitten by an infected mosquito. The Department of Environmental Protection�s West Nile Virus program reports the first positive result was found in an American crow collected in Springettsbury Township, York County. This is the second-earliest reported evidence of West Nile Virus in Pennsylvania since 2003, when West Nile virus was identified in late April of that year.

In 2008 West Nile virus was detected in 37 counties. Human infections primarily occur in late summer and early fall. In 2008 there were 14 persons diagnosed with West Nile infection with one death. This represents an increase from the two previous seasons. In 2003 there were 237 confirmed human cases with nine deaths. In 2004, Pennsylvania began an integrated pest management program that led to better identifying and controlling the mosquito population. Since then, there have not been more than 25 confirmed human cases in any given year.

However, a budget bill recently proposed and passed by Senate Republicans would cut $1.9 million from the West Nile virus program, which would make DEP unable to maintain the level of surveillance and treatment it has provided in previous years.

�The fact that West Nile virus was found early this year means that now is the time to start taking steps to reduce your risk of infection,� said Health Secretary Everette James. �It�s never too early to start thinking about using insect repellants containing DEET and cover exposed skin to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes.� While most people do not get sick when infected with West Nile virus, a small percentage of those exposed will experience a fever, rash, headache, meningitis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Everyone is at risk, but older adults and people with compromised immune systems have the highest risk of developing severe illness because their bodies have a harder time fighting off disease.

While DEP and county West Nile coordinators will again be conducting statewide monitoring and spraying programs this year, DEP Secretary John Hanger reminded all Pennsylvanians that they can help in the battle against mosquitoes that carry the disease by remembering the phrase, �Dump it. Drain it. Treat it.�

�Standing water can quickly become a breeding ground for mosquitoes,� Hanger said. �So dump it if it has water in it; drain it if it can be drained; and treat it if it has standing water. By taking these simple actions in your own backyard, you can eliminate those breeding areas and reduce your chances of contracting the virus.�

Tips to eliminate standing water include:

� Throw away tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar water�holding containers that have accumulated on property.

� Pay special attention to discarded tires, which can hold stagnant water.

� Maintain drainage holes that are located on the sides of gardening containers that might allow enough water to collect for mosquitoes to develop.

� Clean clogged roof gutters as needed.

� Turn over plastic wadding pools, wheelbarrows and birdbaths when not in use.

� Aerate ornamental pools or stick them with fish.

� Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used.

� Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.

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