Pennsylvania Completes West Nile Virus Surveillance for 2003

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Calvin B. Johnson, Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty and Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff announced that the state has completed its West Nile surveillance efforts for 2003.

"With the recent frosts that have taken place across the state, mosquito activity has dropped off," Johnson said. "With little or no mosquito activity, the threat of human infection from West Nile virus is much lower."

"The county West Nile coordinators were tremendous in helping us track the virus and find mosquitoes this summer," McGinty said. "Working with our county partners, we developed a better understanding of where mosquitoes breed and where we need to target our control efforts in the coming years."

"Our thanks also go to horse breeders and other horse operations for their vigilance and help during this past year," Wolff said. "They, too, were integral in helping us to identify mosquito-breeding sites. The West Nile virus situation could have been far worse without the collective awareness of these people."

West Nile virus, when transmitted to people, can cause West Nile fever or encephalitis. Anyone can get the virus, but older adults and people with compromised immune systems have the highest risk of developing severe illness because their bodies have a harder time fighting off disease.

As of Nov. 3, 2003, 221 Pennsylvanians have tested positive for West Nile virus exposure this year. Seven have died. Last year, 62 cases of human West Nile virus were detected in Pennsylvania, resulting in nine fatalities. Human West Nile testing will continue to be provided by the Department of Health during the winter months.

So far this year, West Nile virus has been detected in 541 birds, 952 mosquito samples, 530 horses and 86 sentinel chicken flocks. The state collected 960 bird samples; 30,125 mosquito samples; 5,297 samples from horses and chickens used for early warnings for West Nile; and 1,929 human samples.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

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