Pennsylvania Health, Environmental Officials Report Season's First Positive Test for West Nile Virus

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania Acting Secretary for Department of Health Dr. Robert S. Muscalus today reported the first positive test for the West Nile virus in Pennsylvania for the 2003 season. The positive test was on a crow in Philadelphia.

Department of Environmental Protection Acting Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty emphasized that homeowners can help to reduce mosquito breeding areas by taking steps to remove standing water from their properties. Even a small bucket that has stagnant water in it for four days can become home to many mosquitoes. Tips for eliminating standing water are available on DEP's Web site.

In 2002, West Nile virus was detected in 62 Pennsylvanians and contributed to the deaths of nine people.

When transmitted to people, West Nile virus most often causes mild infections like the flu, but on rare occasions the virus can cause West Nile encephalitis, an infection that can cause an inflammation of the brain. Anyone can get the virus, but older adults over 50 years of age are at increased risk of developing severe illness.

In addition to transmission through the bite of an infected mosquito, West Nile virus also recently has been shown to be transmitted through organ donation, blood transfusion, possibly mother to child (breastfeeding and transplacental) and occupational transmission. However, these other types of transmission account for a very small proportion of cases.

West Nile Virus cases occur primarily in the late summer or early fall, although mosquito season is usually April through October.

Future positive West Nile results will be announced through postings on the DEP website at http://www.westnile.state.pa.us/, as well as through e-mail notification. People interested in receiving e-mail notification of West Nile updates may sign up at that site by clicking on the "News" tab, then entering their e-mail address. For more information on West Nile virus, visit the PA PowerPort at www.state.pa.us, Keyword: "DEP West Nile."

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

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