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PA Department of Health Confirms the First Human Case of West Nile Virus in Pennsylvania for 2009

HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- State Health Secretary Everette James today reported this year's first confirmed human case of West Nile virus in Pennsylvania. The individual is a 21-year-old woman from Luzerne County.

"The number of cases of West Nile disease has declined significantly in the past five years but this season's first case is a reminder that the disease is still out there," Secretary James said. "You can take precautions to protect yourself from this deadly disease."

James recommended these simple precautions to prevent mosquito bites, particularly for those most at risk which include the elderly and those with compromised immune systems:

  • Make sure screens fit tightly over doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of your home;
  • When possible, reduce outdoor exposure at dawn and dusk, the times of day when the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus are most active, during the warmer months of the year (usually April through October);
  • Consider wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when outdoors, particularly at dawn and dusk, or in areas known for having large numbers of mosquitoes;
  • Use insect repellents according to the manufacturer's instructions. Effective repellents contain DEET. Consult a doctor if you have concerns about the use of repellent on young children, as repellent is not recommended for children under the age of two months. Two other insect repellants, Picaridin (KBR 3023) and oil of lemon eucalyptus, a plant based repellent, were tested against mosquitoes and provided protection similar to repellents with low concentrations of DEET.

Pennsylvanians can also reduce the risk of West Nile virus by eliminating the places where mosquitoes breed.

Here are some simple steps that can be taken around the house:

  • Dispose of tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, discarded tires, or any object on your property that could collect standing water.
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors.
  • Have roof gutters cleaned every year, particularly if the leaves from nearby trees have a tendency to clog the drains.
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use.
  • Don't let water stagnate in birdbaths.
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools and remove standing water from pool covers.
  • Use landscaping to eliminate standing water that collects on your property.
  • Standing water that cannot be eliminated should be treated with Bti products, which are sold at outdoor supply, home improvement, and other stores. Bti is a naturally occurring bacterium that kills mosquito larvae but is safe for people, pets, aquatic life and plants.

West Nile virus is spread to people and animals by infected mosquitoes. Usually, the infection does not result in any illness. Older adults and persons with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk of becoming ill after a West Nile infection.

The disease can take two forms; the milder of which is known as West Nile fever. In addition to fever, people with this form of the disease may also experience headache, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph glands. The more severe form of West Nile infection is known as encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain). People with encephalitis may experience high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, and coma. Anyone with any of these symptoms should immediately contact their health care provider.

There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. For severe cases, hospitalization is needed and illness can be associated with long-term disabilities and death.

Since West Nile was first identified in Pennsylvania in 2000, the virus has been found in all areas of the state and has returned each summer.

In 2008, there were 14 human West Nile Virus cases that resulted in one death. In 2007, there were 10 human cases and no deaths. In 2006, there were nine human cases and two deaths. In 2005, there were 25 human cases and two deaths. In 2004, there were 15 human cases and two deaths.

For more information about West Nile virus, including current test results for mosquitoes, birds and horses, visit or call the Department of Health at 1-877-PA HEALTH.

    CONTACT: Stacy Kriedeman
     (717) 787-1783

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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