1. What can I do to protect myself and my family from West Nile Virus?
The best way to protect yourself from the risk of West Nile Virus or other mosquito-borne diseases is to prevent mosquito bites from occurring. Two important ways to do this are by reducing the sources of mosquito breeding sites around your home and by wearing an effective repellent during peak mosquito hours.
Mosquitoes can use as little as a half-inch of water to lay eggs and complete their life cycle. Backyards often offer the ideal breeding habitat – anything that can hold stagnant water for more than 5 days can breed hundreds of mosquitoes! To recognize some common mosquito breeding spots you may not have thought about, check out the ‘Stop Growing Mosquitoes in Your Yard’ brochure here. You can also use this checklist of potential breeding sites to monitor areas in your yard: Mosquito Breeding Site Check List. If stagnant water cannot be eliminated, consider treating the source with a biological control product such as Mosquito Dunks® or Mosquito Bits® which can be purchased from home improvement stores and online retailers.
For more information on mosquito bite prevention, access the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s brochure here. To protect yourself from biting mosquitoes, use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent. Find the right insect repellent for you by using the EPA’s search tool here.
2. What is West Nile Virus?
West Nile Virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne disease spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes acquire the disease by biting an infected bird and then transmit the virus by feeding on the next bird, animal, or human. Transmission risk of WNV is generally greatest from July through September. Most people infected with WNV will not feel sick or exhibit symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who become infected may develop a mild infection called West Nile fever with symptoms that may include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. About 1 in 150 people who become infected may develop a more serious, sometimes fatal, illness called West Nile encephalitis with symptoms that may include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. Those that become infected with a mild infection may fully recover in a few days. Symptoms of a more severe infection can last several weeks and neurological effects could be permanent.
There is no known treatment or vaccine for WNV.
The disease is not spread from person to person contact and there is no evidence suggesting that people are able to get the virus by handling infected animals.
Additional information about WNV, symptoms, statistics and maps can be found here.
3. My yard is infested with large mosquitoes, can you help?
Our program often receives calls regarding large mosquitoes. Biting mosquitoes are actually less than a half-inch in length, so anything larger than that usually turns out to be a species of crane fly. Crane flies are harmless in that they do not bite, sting, or spread diseases. For more information on crane fly emergence in the County, check out our news release.
Additionally, mosquitoes may be confused with these common insects that also inhabit backyards.
4. What is the state doing about West Nile Virus?
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health have developed a surveillance program that uses the principles of Integrated Pest Management. This program focuses on education, habitat reduction, surveillance and control. Up to date mosquito surveillance data results along with additional information about the program can be found here.
5. I’ve heard mosquitoes breed in tires. What can I do about scrap tires laying around?
Since our program started in 2017, each year in the Spring, the Westmoreland Conservation District has held a tire recycling event in conjunction with Westmoreland Cleanways and Recycling Center. The Center accepts tires throughout the year but during our event, the passenger and lite truck tire fee is discounted by $1. For more information on how to recycle tires, please visit Westmoreland Cleanways.
For illegally dumped tires, please refer to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection brochure ‘Proper Management of Scrap Tires’.