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West Nile Virus found in Erie County 

9-17-2019

Mason Bennett, Editor at Large

Infectious disease—particularly spread by insects—hasn’t been a concern among North American residents since their initial discovery in African countries. However, as of September 6, five mosquito groups have now tested positive for West Nile virus in Erie country, mostly collected either in or relatively close to the two areas of Harborcreek and Milcreek. The first mosquitoes to test positive for the virus this year were collected in Harborcreek Township on July 2. The second and third groups were collected in Harborcreek Township and the southeast area of the City of Erie on August 20. The fourth group was collected on August 29 in Millcreek Township, and the last on September 6 in Harborcreek. At this time, no human cases have been reported in Erie County so far. The Erie County Department of Health has reported that they will monitor mosquitoes in the area that tested positive, and conduct additional control work depending on the number and types of mosquitoes collected.

Certain species of mosquitoes are the culprits for carrying West Nile Virus, particularly those under the genus Culex. They typically feed in the late evening and early mornings, when temperatures are coolest. When transmitted to people, it usually causes an intense infection that triggers inflammation of the brain. Anyone can get the virus, but older adults and people with compromised immune systems have the highest risk of developing severe illness because their bodies have a harder time fighting off disease. Experts suggest the best way to prevent yourself from contracting any transmitted disease via insect is to keep yourself aware and educated regarding basic facts of said diseases, including common locations of the insect, typical feeding times and key symptoms that would indicate you’ve contracted the disease. 

There are also many steps you can take right now to help protect you and your community from contracting the West Nile virus. Eliminating standing water—the mosquito’s breeding grounds—around your home and neighborhood is the most highly suggested tactic in reducing the mosquito population in your area. Some ways to do this include disposing of any refuse that can hold water, such as tin cans, containers and particularly used tires, making sure to empty accumulated water from wheelbarrows, boats, cargo trailers, toys and ceramic pots, and preventing water from stagnating in birdbaths, ornamental pools, water gardens and swimming pools. Other ways to keep you and those around you safe that don’t involve monitoring water sources include staying indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening when mosquitoes are most active; if you must go outdoors, wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Insect repellants with the chemical Deet--when applied to exposed skin—deter mosquitoes from biting. It is very important to also spray thin clothing with repellent since mosquitoes can bite through it, which is often overlooked. Finally, mosquitoes are repelled by and avoid high winds at all costs, so electric fans will provide some relief at outdoor events, particularly those near a body of water.