HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Urging Pennsylvanians to take personal protection measures to help lower the incidence of West Nile virus, officials from the departments of Health, Environmental Protection and Agriculture today encouraged the use of a new treatment material that now can be purchased in many lawn and garden, home improvement, and outdoor equipment stores to help eliminate mosquito breeding areas on homeowner properties.
"I urge everyone to eliminate standing water wherever possible on their properties. Small, shallow stagnant pools of water are among the best mosquito breeding habitats. Getting rid of water in flower pots, birdbaths, buckets, swimming pool covers and old tires around your home can significantly reduce your chance of being bitten," said Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty, who noted that mosquitoes will start to breed in standing water after four or five days.
The officials advised homeowners that Bti, the naturally occurring bacteria that state and counties have used for several years to kill mosquito larvae, is now becoming widely available for public use. Bti is available for use in small areas, such as birdbaths, and in larger areas, such as ornamental pools or small ponds. At the home of Jack and Joan Peck just outside of Harrisburg in Dauphin County, officials demonstrated how to apply the material, which is sold under several brand names at various stores selling outdoor supplies.
Bti is a naturally occurring bacteria that attacks the digestive system of mosquito and black fly larvae, killing them in a matter of hours. Bti is not harmful to people, pets, other aquatic animals, or plants, and dissolves after a few hours if not consumed by insect larvae.
"Already this year, we have eight confirmed human cases of the virus in Pennsylvania, and there has been one death reported in the southern United States. This should serve as a reminder that all of us need to do what we can to lessen our chances of being infected through a mosquito bite. Containing West Nile virus is something we have to work together to do," said Health's Director of Epidemiology Joel Hersh.
Hersh also recommends wearing insect repellant with DEET, wearing long sleeves and long pants when possible, and avoiding mosquito-infested areas at dawn and dusk, which are the times of day mosquitoes are most likely to bite people.
"Farmers and horse owners also play a key role in controlling West Nile virus. I would ask farmers and horse owners to eliminate standing water where they can on their properties," said Nan Hanshaw-Roberts, a veterinarian at the Department of Agriculture. "They should also consult with their veterinarians about the vaccine that is available for horses."
The state officials recommended a number of tips to help eliminate mosquito-breeding areas around the home and farm, including:
-- Disposing of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar
water-holding containers that have collected on your property.
-- Paying attention to discarded tires. Stagnant water in tires are
where most mosquitoes breed.
-- Drilling holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors.
-- Having clogged roof gutters cleaned every year, particularly if the
leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug up the drains.
Roof gutters can produce millions of mosquitoes each season.
-- Turning over plastic wading pools when not in use. Stagnant water in
a wading pool becomes a place for mosquitoes to breed.
-- Turning over wheelbarrows and not letting water stagnate in
birdbaths. Both provide breeding habitats for domestic mosquitoes.
-- Aerating ornamental pools or stocking them with fish. Water gardens
can become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate.
Clean and chlorinate swimming pools not in use. A swimming pool left
untended by a family on vacation for a month can produce enough
mosquitoes to result in neighborhood-wide complaints. Mosquitoes may
even breed in the water that collects on pool covers.
-- Keeping water in buckets and troughs fresh and clean.
-- Using landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your
property. Mosquitoes may breed in any puddle that lasts for more than
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health; Pennsylvania Department of