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Franklin County receives West Nile funding

March 31, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Although Franklin County is just two weeks into spring, Ernest Tarner already is thinking about mosquitoes and the West Nile virus they may carry this summer.

Tarner, manager of the Franklin County Conservation District, said he was recently notified that the county would receive $53,500 in state funding for mosquito surveillance programs. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has awarded counties across the state thousands of dollars since the virus was first identified in New York in 1999.

"By distributing money to the counties, we are providing for surveillance programs to be conducted on the local level," said state Rep. Jeff Coy, D-Franklin, who announced the funding. "We need to monitor, control and eventually eliminate the West Nile virus."

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Most of the money will go to tracking sites around the county and using pesticides to treat areas with mosquito larvae, he said.

Light traps will be used in the evenings to trap adult mosquitoes.

"If it shows a number of positives for West Nile, we would get together with the state and hire a company to spray the local area," Tarner said.

Monitoring will begin in April and continue into the fall.

The virus, however, has been detected year-round.

"There were reports in the state of Pennsylvania where they checked over the winter and found some mosquitoes wintering in different storm sewers and they tested positive," Tarner said. He said none of them were in Franklin County.

Last year, several birds and mosquitoes and one person in Franklin County tested positive for West Nile virus.

The West Nile virus was discovered in the United States in 1999 in birds, horses and other animals bitten by mosquitoes. The virus can cause swelling of the brain and is most dangerous to people older than 50. Symptoms include fever, head or body aches, disorientation, coma and tremors.

Most people fully recover from the virus, although Coy said 59 Pennsylvanians in 2002 tested positive for the virus and eight died.

Residents are advised to be observant of items on their property that might hold even small amounts of stagnant or standing water, including discarded buckets and containers, kiddie pools, birdbaths, rimless tires, tarps covering woodpiles, low-lying drainage areas and retention ponds.

For more information about the Mosquito Surveillance Program in Franklin County, call 717-264-8074.

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