A report that mosquitoes in New York State tested positive for West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has spurred New York agencies to treat 63,000 acres in Chautauqua County, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to survey northern Warren County.
Eric Mosbacher, who works for the DEP's northwest office in Meadville, said, "We have done surveillance in Warren County about two weeks ago near the New York border and again in the past couple of days."
There were no positive results earlier, he said, and the recent samples were shipped overnight on Tuesday. Mosbacher guessed he would receive the results in two days, depending on the lab's work load.
He noted that he didn't find many mosquitoes, but recent precipitation, temperatures and conditions could increase the number .
"If the tests come back positive, we would have to make a decision," he said, adding that one option would be to treat possible breeding areas.
As far as the EEE, Mosbacher said he has never had a case in 14 years that was positive, although he remembered one case elsewhere in Pennsylvania.
Mosbacher said that any mosquito is a potential carrier, although several species, especially ones that prefer birds, are the main carriers.
For humans, the Pennsylvania Health Department estimates that only 20 percent of those infected will develop West Nile fever. The mild symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands.
One in 150 will develop a more severe form of the disease. Persons over 50 years of age have the highest risk of severe disease. Three people in southeastern Pennsylvania have tested positive for West Nile fever this year, according to the Health Department.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that EEE is a rare illness in humans, and only 5 to 10 cases are reported in the United States each year. Approximately a third of patients who develop EEE die, and many of those who survive have mild to severe brain damage.
The New York aerial spraying of around 63,000 acres was accomplished Sunday evening between Route 62 and Old Route 62 north of the state line, after New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah's declaration of an imminent threat to public health for mosquito-borne disease.
Preventing mosquito bites is the only way individuals can avoid the diseases.
Although mosquitoes can bite at any time of day or night, they are most active at dawn and dusk. When outdoors, people can avoid mosquito bites by properly and consistently using DEET-containing insect repellants and covering exposed skin with lightweight clothing.
To keep mosquitoes from entering a home, make sure window and door screens are in place and are in good condition.
To help avoid breeding mosquitoes, eliminate standing water on your property, including stagnant bird baths, turn over wheelbarrows and plastic pools when not in use and have roof gutters cleaned every year, particularly if the leaves from nearby trees have a tendency to clog the drains.