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Two West Nile cases found in Pa. counties

July 31, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A tin can with water in it left in the back yard can breed thousands of mosquitoes in four days, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health said Tuesday.

Jessica Siders, in the agency's Harrisburg, Pa., office, said two cases of West Nile virus - one in Franklin County, the other in Fulton County - were reported in July.

As of Monday, two cases had been found in mosquito pools sampled in nearby Cumberland County, Siders said.

West Nile virus, which can be fatal to humans, is transmitted through mosquito bites. Some species of birds are most susceptible to the disease. A crow killed by the virus was found last week in Cumberland County, she said.

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West Nile was detected in a mosquito pool sampled in Hamilton Township in Franklin County on July 11, Siders said. The Fulton County sample was found in a pool in Licking Creek Township on July 23.

So far this year, 44 cases of West Nile have been reported statewide. They included 35 samples taken from mosquito pools, seven birds, a horse and one sentinel chicken, she said.

Chickens can catch the virus but do not die. They are often staked out in areas where West Nile has been detected to test for the virus, she said.

Only one person has suffered from the virus in Pennsylvania this year, Siders said. A 44-year-old Philadelphia-area woman contracted a mild case of the virus and was hospitalized for observation, Siders said. "She's back to work and she's fine," Siders said.

Sixty-two cases of West Nile were reported in humans in Pennsylvania last year. Nine people died from the disease.

"The first case wasn't detected until August last year," Siders said.

Siders, quoting statistics from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, said 28 people across the United States have died from West Nile so far this year. Texas alone reported nine deaths, Siders said.

In 2002, West Nile was detected in 4,156 people resulting in 284 deaths across the country.

Precautions to prevent the virus from spreading are simple - eliminate places where mosquitoes can breed. Anywhere stagnant water sits is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. People should:

  • Dab on strong insect repellent and wear protective clothing like long sleeves and pants when going into mosquito territory.

  • Avoid areas where the insects are known to be.

  • Stay in at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are more active.

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