Pennsylvania DEP Proposes $5.2 Million in Grants for Counties' 2005 West Nile Virus Control Programs

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty today proposed $5.2 million in grants to help Pennsylvania counties finance their West Nile Virus Control Programs in 2005 and keep residents healthy and safe.

   

"Working with our county partners, DEP is prepared once again to launch an

aggressive mosquito monitoring and control program to contain West Nile virus

in Pennsylvania," McGinty said.  "This funding will help counties

and their established surveillance programs wage a successful suppression

effort against the virus-carrying mosquitoes through the fall."

   

The funding proposals were developed through consultations between DEP

West Nile Virus Control Program staff and county officials. Counties will

begin receiving a portion of their funding from current fiscal year

appropriations to begin 2005 operations. The remainder of the funds cannot be

distributed until the new fiscal year begins July 1. The actual final amounts

depend on passage of the Governor's proposed 2005-06 budget.

   

Total proposed funding is below the $6.4 million awarded in 2004, largely

because counties already have purchased their needed equipment, such as

mosquito traps, to operate their programs, so major capital expenses are not

needed this year.

  

In addition, the department has learned a great deal from its four years

of running the West Nile Virus Control Program.  These years of experience

mean targeting resources more efficiently and ensuring an even greater

effectiveness of field programs.  County staff members have become extremely

effective in locating areas that dictate control activity.

   

"In the early part of the season, our field staff and county partners will

be targeting a specific species, Culex restuans, which we believe played a

significant role in spreading the virus among birds early in the 2003 season,"

McGinty said.  "Culex restuans rarely bite people, but by spreading

the virus more widely through the bird population, it helps to spread it to

other mosquito species that do bite people.  We believe targeting a particular

species contributed to the lower incidence of West Nile virus in Pennsylvania

during the 2004 mosquito season."

   

In 2003, 247 people in Pennsylvania were confirmed with West Nile virus,

and eight died.  Last year, 15 people were confirmed with West Nile Virus, and

two died.  Nationally in 2003, the virus infected more than 10,000 people and

resulted in 264 deaths.  In 2004, 2,449 people contracted the disease with 81

fatalities reported nationwide.

   

McGinty noted that most people bitten by an infected mosquito

will never develop any symptoms, and one in 150 who do develop symptoms will

contract the more serious West Nile encephalitis, a swelling of the brain that

can cause serious health problems that may be fatal.  Health and environmental

officials recommend people turn over containers to get rid of standing water,

which serves as mosquito breeding areas on their properties, and use insect

repellant containing DEET when outdoors in warm weather.

   

DEP and county staff use environmentally sensitive materials to control

the mosquito population.  For killing larvae, which is the major method of

mosquito control, Bti and Bsph, naturally occurring bacteria, are used.  These

bacteria attack the digestive system of the mosquito larvae and have no effect

on people, animals, plants or other insects.  The other larval control product

is an insect hormone, methoprene that prevents the mosquito larvae from

developing into adults.  The products used to kill adult mosquitoes are

selected based on their environmental sensitivity and are applied in a way to

protect people, animals and plants.

   

For more information on the state's West Nile Virus Control Program, visit

the department's Web site at http://www.westnile.state.pa.us.

 

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