Environmental Protection

Pa. DEP: Dump, Drain, Treat for West Nile Virus

With summer weather at hand, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger has asked Pennsylvanians to make every effort to control mosquitoes and reduce the threat of the West Nile Virus.

Hanger said standing water can quickly become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. He asked residents to follow the simple rule of dump it, drain it, and treat it.

“Dump it if it has water in it; drain it if it can be drained; and treat it if it has standing water,” said Hanger. “By taking these simple actions in your own backyard, you can eliminate those breeding areas and reduce your chances of contracting the virus.”

Certain mosquitoes species carry West Nile virus, which, when transmitted to people, can cause West Nile encephalitis, an infection that can result in an inflammation of the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all residents in areas where virus activity has been identified are at risk of getting West Nile encephalitis.

This year, Gov. Edward G. Rendell proposed $4.6 million to battle West Nile. Currently, surveillance and control efforts are under way in all 67 counties, maintaining current levels of funding. However, a Senate-approved budget bill, Senate Bill 850, would reduce next year’s funding by 40 percent to $2.8 million, and force DEP to consider eliminating counties from the program. In addition, the Senate plan proposed to slash an additional $50 million from the governor’s proposed DEP budget of $210 million to $160.8 million. “Pennsylvania has a monitoring, surveillance and spraying program in place that has been proven effective in controlling mosquito populations and decreasing human cases of West Nile, but the threat of humans contracting the disease still exists,” said Hanger.

In 2003, the year before Pennsylvania integrated a pest management program that led to better identifying and controlling mosquito populations, the virus was detected in all 67 counties. There were 237 confirmed human cases with nine deaths. Since then, there have not been more than 25 confirmed human cases in any given year. Hanger said the West Nile virus was detected in 37 counties last year. There were 14 persons diagnosed with the disease with one confirmed death.

The first positive result of 2009 was found in an American crow collected in Springettsbury Township, York County, on May 5. 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.

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 wading pools, wheelbarrows, and birdbaths when not in use.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not being used.
  • Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.

For more information, visit www.westnile.state.pa.us.

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