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Franklin County gets grant to study West Nile Virus

February 15, 2002

Franklin County gets grant to study West Nile Virus



Chambersburg, Pa.

By STACEY DANZUSO
chbbureau@innernet.net


Franklin County will spend more than $90,000 in state grants this mosquito season to target the pests and check for West Nile Virus.

The Franklin County Conservation District will use the funds to begin mosquito surveillance in April. Checking for the potentially deadly West Nile Virus will continue through October, according to Ernest Tarner, manager of the agency.

The money comes from the state Department of Environmental Protection's mosquito surveillance program, which has awarded counties across the state thousands of dollars since the virus was first identified in New York in 1999.

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So far, the surveillance has found no infected mosquitoes and only one infected bird in Franklin County, Tarner said.

That bird, an American crow, was found dead in Greene Township in late September. It was the only reported case of West Nile Virus in the county last year, according to the DEP Web site.

Tarner said that when monitoring mosquitoes, the county is divided into five sections. Technicians set up light traps in the evening that run overnight and trap adult mosquitoes in each area.

"If you see something hanging in a tree that doesn't look right, it's probably a trap," he said.

The technicians also go out before dark for "dipping" - collecting samples of larvae and adult mosquitos from standing water.

Those specimens are put on dry ice and sent to the state lab in Harrisburg to be analyzed, he said.

Tarner said the conservation district will continue its efforts indefinitely.

"We will do it as long as the Department of Environmental Protection thinks it needs to be done," he said.

Franklin County was one of 17 counties in Pennsylvania in 2001 with the virus present, but Philadelphia and counties in the southeastern part of the state accounted for most cases, according to the DEP.

West Nile Virus causes swelling of the brain and is most dangerous to people over age 50. Symptoms include fever, head or body aches, disorientation, coma or tremors.

Most people fully recover from the virus although seven people died in 1999 and two in 2000, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

In September, three Pennsylvania residents tested positive for the disease but recovered.

Mosquitoes spread the West Nile Virus by biting infected birds, horses and other animals and then biting humans. The virus has been found along the East Coast from New England to North Carolina.

Residents can help prevent possible outbreaks by performing simple preventative tasks such as properly maintaining bird baths and water gardens, regularly cleaning rain gutters, and generally preventing water form standing for more than three days.

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