The summer months signal an increase in the mosquito population, along with the possibility of contracting West Nile virus, but Centre County has a program in place to monitor and control the threat.
Centre County, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, has operated the program since 2000. Starting in May and running through August, the county traps and sends mosquitoes to Harrisburg for testing. If a result is positive, the county sprays and monitors the area.
In 2004, the Centre County Planning Commission office took over the program. It was run by Bert Lavan for 13 years before he retired in 2016. Robert Bloom succeeded Lavan and began his work in May.
Each week, Bloom sets 16 traps throughout the county and collects the samples for testing. At the end of May, one mosquito in Harris Township tested positive for the virus, according to Bloom. He set up additional traps in the area and there have been no positive test results over the past three weeks.
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Centre County’s largest number of cases was reported in 2012 when 52 mosquitoes, 28 birds, three domesticated animals and one human tested positive for West Nile virus. Since 2012 there have been a total of 41 positive samples, but no human cases. Lavan said he does not expect an increase in positive test results this summer.
“In my experience, the wet weather actually keeps the numbers down,” Bloom said. “The main issue is almost always standing water, which is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.”
To protect from hatches, Bloom said county residents should make sure water does not collect for more than seven days. Some common areas that can collect water are gutters, window wells, bird baths, trash containers or children’s play equipment.
“It’s important for people to know that even a small flower pot can hold water and become a breeding ground in 10 days,” Bloom said. “We just ask that people dump any standing water and call our office if they see any sick birds or pets.”