West Nile Virus is a virus most commonly spread by infected mosquitos. The virus has been detected in 48 states, and first found in Pennsylvania in 2000. Most people bitten by an infected mosquito will show mild symptoms, but it is possible that some will develop severe neurological issues (https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/faq/genQuestions.html).
Westmoreland County’s West Nile Virus Program started in 2017 and is a part of Pennsylvania’s West Nile Virus Control Program (http://www.westnile.state.pa.us/). The goal is to use integrated mosquito management to reduce mosquito borne diseases. Integrated mosquito management reduces public health risks from mosquitos in Westmoreland County using three methods, as follows.
- Education – Public events that focus on mosquito bite prevention, mosquito habitat reduction, and West Nile Virus risks in Pennsylvania.
- Surveillance – The program monitors adult and larval stages of mosquitoes throughout Westmoreland County. Gravid traps are deployed to collect adult mosquitos that have already taken a blood meal and are looking to lay their eggs. Potential carriers (Culex pipiens and Culex restuans) are tested for the virus. Larval surveillance is done by dipping stagnant water.
- Control – When larvae are detected, the following series of events occur to control the mosquito breeding habitat: source reduction, education, biological control agents, and pesticides. Pesticides are used only if no other method will eliminate the larvae. Water quality, non-target organisms, and pest resistance are considered when using pesticides. Most of the pesticides used for larval control are biological. These pesticides use bacteria to kill the larvae and are specific to mosquitoes.
West Nile Virus-infected birds transmit the virus to mosquitoes. The program welcomes reports of dead bird sightings, specifically Corvids (jays, crows, ravens, and magpies), that appear to be caused by something other than trauma. To report a dead bird, contact the Westmoreland County West Nile Virus technician at 724-837-5271 or file a report online at the Pennsylvania West Nile Virus Control Program website (http://www.westnile.state.pa.us/index.html). The program also monitors horse and human cases of West Nile Virus, which are reported by veterinarians and physicians.
Although the focus on the project is West Nile Virus, BG-Sentinel traps are set to target the Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) that could potentially transmit Zika Virus if it were to come to Pennsylvania. These mosquitos are a daytime nuisance.
For more information, contact: Andrea Halfhill
West Nile Virus Program Technician