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West Nile virus confirmed in Centre County

Florida International University's Matthew DeGannaro holds his arm in a test to monitor mosquito attraction to the human scent in his research to help combat the Zika virus that is transmitted by the mosquito.
Florida International University's Matthew DeGannaro holds his arm in a test to monitor mosquito attraction to the human scent in his research to help combat the Zika virus that is transmitted by the mosquito. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

A red-tailed hawk was found in Worth Township May 2, and tests on the bird revealed that it carried West Nile virus.

A turkey vulture was also confirmed to have carried the virus in Franklin County.

They are the first confirmed detections of West Nile virus in 2016 in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection and Health, which said in a release that in 2015 it was detected in 56 counties and resulted in 14 human cases, including one fatality.

“DEP vigilantly monitors the mosquito population across Pennsylvania with a comprehensive surveillance and control network. When West Nile virus is identified, DEP staff works quickly to prevent the spread of the virus,” acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in the release. “Today’s announcement serves as a reminder that all Pennsylvanians should take precautions to protect against mosquitoes.”

DEP said a pest management program was integrated in 2004 to improve “identification and control of mosquito populations.”

Mosquito species that carry the virus may cause humans to contract West Nile fever or West Nile encephalitis, which causes inflammation of the brain.

“Although most people do not become ill when infected with West Nile virus, all are at risk,” the DEP said. “Older adults and those with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk of becoming ill and developing severe complications. The best defense against West Nile virus is to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water around homes, weeds, tall grass, shrubbery and discarded tires.”

The DEP suggested homeowners dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots and discarded tires, drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers, clean out roof gutters, turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows and chlorinate swimming pools not in use and remove water that may collect on pool covers.

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli

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