Experts Say Wet Summer Reason For Explosion In West Nile Cases

The virus has been found in mosquitoes in 51 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties.

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PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - State health experts say the wet summer that's been responsible for numerous flash floods statewide has a new consequence, an explosion in the West Nile virus.

Officials say West Nile cases have been found in 51 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties.

Matt Helwig, a Biologist with the Department of Environmental Protection says it only takes a small amount of standing water for mosquitos to breed.

“It doesn’t take much for several hundred mosquitoes to be born. The small pool of water that collects in a single upturned bottle cap is an incubator for as many as 300 mosquito eggs,” said Helwig. Mosquitoes acquire the virus by biting infected birds and transmit the virus to people through a subsequent bite.

Helwig adds that those with a weaker immune system and older adults at greater risk for a more serious case of West Nile.

“One in five people will develop flu-like symptoms. About one in 150 people will develop the neuroinvasive or more severe form of the disease. People that are more likely to experience that neuroinvasive disease are immune compromised or people and/or over 50 years of age.”

Allegheny County and the state's first and currently only human West Nile case was confirmed last Friday in a Penn Hills man. He continues to recover at home.

West Nile has also been confirmed in mosquitoes in Washington, Westmoreland, Beaver and Greene Counties.

In addition to routine spraying to control the mosquito population, the DEP recommends using EPA- registered insect repellants, wearing long pans and sleeves to reduce exposure and eliminating standing water around your property.

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