Lehigh County efforts to reduce the risk of people contracting center on eliminating certain mosquito breeding grounds, rather than spraying to eradicate the insects, the county coordinator said.
Last week, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced that a tested positive for West Nile Virus. The state has issued similar reports about mosquitoes found in South Whitehall and Upper Saucon.
Louise Bugbee, West Nile coordinator for Lehigh County, said the county is concentrating on trapping and testing certain mosquitoes and trying to make it more difficult for them to breed.
The county has no spraying scheduled. "We have certain thresholds that we have to meet before we spray," she said.
“We do what we can but we’re never going to get them all,” Bugbee said. “We do the trapping and send them to DEP in Harrisburg for testing.”
Residents can help by cleaning up pools of water around their own property, she said. Culex mosquitoes are the main vectors of West Nile, Bugbee said, and they tend to breed in “clogged gutters, lids of garbage cans that collect water for a month, the toy under the hedge.”
As for avoiding mosquitoes in your yard, citronella candles only work within a small radius of the candle, she said. She suggested putting an oscillating fan on your porch or patio because mosquitoes won’t like the constant breeze.
“Bug lights do not kill mosquitoes,” she said. “Bug lights are killing lots of beneficial insects” such as lacewings and moths.
West Nile Virus can cause encephalitis -- inflammation of the brain. West Nile was first found in North America in 1999 in New York and in Pennsylvania in 2000, DEP reported. Mosquitoes can pass on the disease to birds and other animals, as well as people.
A mild case of West Nile might manifest itself with flu-like symptoms with a fever lasting a few days. The most serious cases cause West Nile encephalitis, West Nile meningitis or West Nile meningoencephalitis.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water around homes, weeds, tall grass, shrubbery and discarded tires.
Last summer, Lehigh County was for West Nile.
The state suggests you take these precautions to help eliminate mosquito-breeding areas, including:
- Dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers that hold water on your property.
- Properly dispose of discarded tires that can collect water. Stagnant water is where most mosquitoes breed.
- Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers. Have roof gutters cleaned regularly, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to block drains.
- Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use. Turn over wheelbarrows and don’t let water stagnate in birdbaths.
- Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools not in use and remove any water that may collect on pool covers.
- For stagnant pools of water, homeowners can buy Bti products at lawn and garden, outdoor supply, home improvement and other stores. Bti is a naturally occurring bacteria that kills mosquito larva but is safe for people, pets, aquatic life and plants.
Additionally, these tips can help prevent mosquito bites:
- Make sure screens fit tightly over doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of homes.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when outdoors, particularly when mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, or in areas known for having large numbers of mosquitoes.
- When possible, reduce outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk during peak mosquito periods.
- Use insect repellants according to the manufacturer’s instructions. An effective repellant will contain DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
- Consult with a pediatrician or family physician if you have questions about the use of repellant on children, as repellant is not recommended for children under the age of two months.
For more information about West Nile virus and the state’s surveillance and control program, visitwww.westnile.state.pa.us.