Indiana, PA - Indiana County

West Nile found locally

by SAM KUSIC skusic@indianagazette.net on August 24, 2011 2:45 AM

The Indiana County West Nile Virus Control Program plans to spray for mosquitoes in the area between IUP's Robertshaw Building and the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex on Thursday, after mosquitoes carrying the disease were found in a trap there.

Spraying is to take place between 7:30 and 9 p.m. During that time, the university's marching band practice lot and the walking trail between the lot and South 13th Street will be closed as a precaution.

Crews will be targeting three areas: the walking trail, a wetland along the trail and a large stormwater retention pond at the Kovalchick Complex.

Nearby residents have been advised to remain indoors during spraying and to make sure that all windows are closed.

Residents also have been asked to refrain from hanging wet laundry outdoors to dry. Food and water bowls for pets also should be emptied, washed and refilled after spraying has concluded.

According to Thomas Norris, the county's West Nile Virus Control Program assistant, the area is being sprayed because a trap set along Wayne Avenue, near the Robertshaw Building and the Kovalchick Complex, caught disease-carrying mosquitoes on Aug. 10.

He also said there is a severe infestation of nuisance mosquitoes in the area.

But that isn't the only place the county has found mosquitoes carrying the disease -- a trap set in White Township's Heritage Oaks housing development also caught West Nile positive mosquitoes on Aug. 17.

West Nile virus is an infection that can cause inflammation of the brain. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the likelihood of catching of the virus is extremely low.

And 80 percent of those who become infected won't show any symptoms.

Less than 1 in 150 will develop severe symptoms, such as blindness, disorientation, coma, convulsions, numbness and paralysis. However, people who are older than 50 or who have compromised immune systems are at the most risk of severe symptoms or death.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the virus has been detected in mosquito samples in more than 30 counties this year, but there have no reported cases of human infections.

Norris said July, August and September are generally the peak months for virus detection and infection.

The virus first appeared in the United States in 1999 and is expected to persist in the North American environment indefinitely. Between 2000 and 2010, there have been 4,467 positive mosquito samples taken in Pennsylvania, 2,559 instances of infected birds, and 674 instances of infected pets and livestock, mostly horses. In that same time, the virus has infected 402 people, and 25 have died.

The county's West Nile virus program is based out of Penn State Cooperative Extension and has been monitoring and testing mosquito populations since 2001.

From then to now, the program has found 27 instances of the virus in mosquitoes, with the majority, 12, being found in White Township. Another five have been found in Homer City.

Norris said the county program generally places more of an effort on its population centers, such as Homer City and Indiana.

For more information, visit www.westnile.state.pa or call (724) 465-3880.

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