MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

Pennsylvania warns residents to take precautions against West Nile virus

The combination of rising temperatures and recent rains could lead to increased mosquito breeding and increased transmission of West Nile virus, Pennsylvania state officials said on Monday.

Officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture came together at a press conference in Harrisburg to remind residents to guard against the deadly virus.

"Last year proved to be a record season for West Nile virus in Pennsylvania," Chris Abruzzo, the acting DEP secretary, said. "More than 3,400 mosquito samples tested positive for the virus, the most our department has ever identified."

During the event, department officials led demonstrations on mosquito control and surveillance, in addition to educational information by subject matter experts.

Last year, West Nile virus was detected in 52 Pennsylvania counties. The first West Nile virus-positive mosquito was found on May 3, the state's earliest incidence of the virus ever. This year, two mosquito samples and one avian specimen tested positive for West Nile virus.

"We know West Nile virus is among us and while we don't want to discourage citizens from enjoying Pennsylvania's great outdoors, we want to ensure you are equipped with tips and information to do it safely," Michael Wolf, Pennsylvania's secretary of health, said.

In 2012, there were 60 humans cases, including four deaths. There were also 51 reported veterinary cases of West Nile virus, most of which were found in horses.

"West Nile virus is a serious concern for humans, but it can also affect our animals, especially horses and birds," George Greig, Pennsylvania's agriculture secretary, said. "Know the risks and follow the prevention tips to safeguard the health of your families and pets."

Officials recommend that residents eliminate standing water and take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.