Team fights West Nile virus in Centre County

mmorgan@centredaily.comApril 4, 2014 

As the weather starts to warm, and the season continues to change, the Centre County West Nile Virus Surveillance and Control Program team has sprung into action.

Program coordinator Bert Lavan said to try to control the mosquito population, the team already has begun spraying some of the problem spots where larvae typically hatch. He said stagnant waters in man-made situations like wheelbarrows, piles of tires or gutters collecting rainwater are the biggest problem areas.

After they finish spraying for larvae, county workers will attempt to catch mosquitoes to send them to Harrisburg where they are tested them for the virus.

“If we repeatedly get positives, that’s when we’ll continue doing adult spraying,” Lavan said.

The county saw a 16 positive tests last year, and there were 1,535 in Pennsylvania overall. Lavan said a large number of those positive tests come from more urban areas in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Despite the cold and snowy winter, Lavan said already there were typical numbers of larva in the stagnant pools. That’s caused problems in the past. He said the county has about 100 places that workers go to spray each year.

The team also will collect dead crows to test, because the birds are common carriers of the disease.

As mosquito season continues, Lavan said residents should take increased caution at dawn and dusk when the insects are most likely to be out, because the disease is transmitted through mosquito bites. He said people might not be willing to wear long pants and long sleeves when the weather is hot, but insect repellent is a good way to ward off the bugs.

The virus creates neurological problems in about 1 percent of humans that are bitten by mosquito carriers. There were 11 human cases in the state last year.

The program is funded by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.

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