Testing of mosquitoes and dead birds for West Nile Virus is underway

Date: May 28, 2019

Testing of mosquitoes and dead birds for West Nile Virus (WNV) is underway in Pennsylvania.

The Centre County West Nile Virus Surveillance and Control program will accept dead birds that local residents have discovered and will send them to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) in Harrisburg for testing. PADEP limits testing to crows, blue jays, hawks, and owls.

This is in addition to the monitoring of WNV in mosquitoes, which began April 16 this year. 

Managed by the County Planning and Community Development Office and funded by a PADEP grant, the Centre County program has licensed personnel who will trap adult mosquitoes in populated areas of the County and ship them to PADEP, where they will be identified by species. The adult species capable of transmitting WNV will be tested for the virus. If personnel find a WNV-positive mosquito, or large numbers of a species capable of infecting humans, they are licensed to treat breeding areas with pesticides.  

Ferguson Township residents should be aware that adult mosquito trapping will be conducted in in our municipality between now and September 30. 

Residents are being advised to eliminate any sources of standing water, such as unused swimming pools, stagnant ornamental ponds, poorly functioning roof gutters, and especially used tires. Where it is feasible, clean out poorly functioning storm water systems to eliminate standing water. See additional advisories below.

State funding requires the program to focus on finding and treating WNV-infected mosquito populations, and not to function as a general nuisance mosquito spray program. However, residents with complaints should contact the program so that County personnel can trap mosquitoes in the affected area to test for WNV, and to evaluate the mosquito population level. If mosquito numbers are found to be unacceptably high, even of a non-WNV species, personnel are prepared to provide adult mosquito spraying at no cost. 

Please contact the County Planning and Community Development Office if you are aware of wet areas that are breeding large amounts of mosquitoes. If treating with pesticides is indicated, permission from landowners or responsible authorities will be obtained before proceeding.

West Nile Virus is a public health hazard we all want to prevent. WNV is a mosquito-borne disease that produces severe neurological symptoms in about 1 percent of humans that become infected as the result of a bite by a mosquito infected with WNV.

Pennsylvania has about 50 species of mosquitoes; of these, 12 are capable of infecting humans with WNV.

In 2018, Centre County had 90 positive tests for West Nile Virus, including 18 from birds, 57 from mosquitoes, and 11 from horses. There were four human cases in the County. Across the state, there were 7,198 positive tests on mosquitoes, birds and horses, and 130 human cases reported statewide. 

Residents with questions may contact the office at (814) 355-6791. Or visit the website at www.centrecountypa.gov

Frequently asked questions, prevention and control, symptoms and treatment

Reduce your risk of becoming infected by mosquitoes carrying the virus by following these few simple steps:

  • If outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, dress in light-colored, long-sleeved clothing, long pants and socks. Apply mosquito repellent with DEET to clothing and exposed skin in accordance with label directions.
  • Maintain your swimming pool. Neglected pools can be ideal sources for larval development of the mosquito species that transmits West Nile Virus. 
  • Discard any outdoor container that might hold water, or empty water from wading pools and birdbaths, once a week. Remove old tires that are holding water. Clean gutters that may be clogged as well as any poorly functioning stormwater systems that may be holding water. 
  • Keep grass cut short and shrubbery around the house trimmed so that adult mosquitoes will not hide there.
  • To prevent mosquito larvae development, do not dump grass clippings into low lying areas that collect water after a rainfall. Using a mulching lawnmower can help eliminate grass clipping disposal.
  • Report dead birds on your property to the Centre County WNV Coordinator, or visit www.westnile.state.pa.us. Or, call (717) 346-8243. You may also report any wet areas that are breeding large amounts of mosquitoes.