PREVENTING DISEASE: CITY SPRAYS FOR WEST NILE VIRUS

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On Thursday, August 30th, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Lehigh County West Nile Program conducted its first mosquito control spraying operation to reduce high populations of mosquitoes that have tested positive for West Nile Virus.  A truck-mounted sprayer began at sunset and covered West Allentown and South Whitehall Township.

On Tuesday evening, September 11th, a second operation was conducted along the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Sumner Avenue corridors, Trexler Park and the area bounded by Basin St., Auburn St., Lehigh St., and Union St., including the waste water plant and Mill St. under the 8th St. Bridge.

The product sprayed is designed to provide quick, effective control of adult mosquito populations. The application material has a very low toxicity profile to mammals and is safe for the environment.

Certain mosquito species carry the West Nile virus, which can cause humans to contract West Nile encephalitis, an infection that can result in an inflammation of the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all residents in areas where virus activity has been identified are at risk of contracting West Nile virus.

Individuals can take a number of precautionary measures around their homes to help eliminate mosquito-breeding areas, including:

• Disposing of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers that hold standing water.
• Properly disposing of discarded tires that can collect water. Stagnant water is where most mosquitoes breed.
• Drilling holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers.
• Having clogged roof gutters cleaned every year;  the leaves from surrounding trees have a  tendency to plug drains.
• Turning over plastic wading pools when not in use.
• Turning over wheelbarrows and don’t let water stagnate in birdbaths.
• Aerating ornamental pools or stocking them with fish.
• Cleaning and chlorinating swimming pools not in use and removing any water that may collect on pool covers.

If a resident has stagnant pools of water on their property, they can buy BTI products at lawn and garden, outdoor supply, home improvement and other stores. This naturally occurring bacterium kills mosquito larvae but is safe for people, pets, aquatic life and plants.

Additionally, these simple precautions can prevent mosquito bites, particularly for people who are most at risk:

• Make sure screens fit tightly over doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
• Consider wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when outdoors, particularly when mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, or in areas known for having large numbers of mosquitoes.
• When possible, reduce outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk during peak mosquito periods, usually April through October.
• Use insect repellents according to the manufacturer’s instructions. An effective repellent will contain DEET, picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil. Consult with a pediatrician or family physician for questions about the use of repellent on children, as repellent is not recommended for children under the age of two months.

For more information about West Nile virus and the state’s surveillance and control program, visit www.westnile.state.pa.us.