Despite warnings and mosquito sprayings in communities throughout the United States, including Salisbury Township, the outbreak of West Nile virus this year is the worst ever, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The number of cases so far this year is the highest recorded since the disease was first detected in the United States in 1999, according to a report on CNN.
As of Aug. 21, 38 states had reported human infections of West Nile virus, including a Lehigh County man. The CDC reported a total of 1,118 cases, including 41 deaths.
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 encephalitis. A number of townships and boroughs in Lehigh County have had mosquitoes that tested positive for West Nile virus, including Salisbury.
Individuals can take a number of precautionary measures around their homes to help eliminate mosquito-breeding areas, including:
• Dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers that hold water.
• Properly dispose of discarded tires that can collect water. Stagnant water is where most mosquitoes breed.
• Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers.
• Have clogged roof gutters cleaned every year, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug drains.
• Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use.
• Turn over wheelbarrows and don’t let water stagnate in birdbaths.
• Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
• Clean and chlorinate swimming pools not in use and remove any water that may collect on pool covers.
If residents have 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 repellants according to the manufacturer’s instructions. An effective repellant will contain DEET, picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil. Consult with a pediatrician or family physician for questions about the use of repellant on children, as repellant is not recommended for children under the age of 2 months.
For more information about West Nile virus and the state’s surveillance and control program, visit www.westnile.state.pa.us .