A mosquito carrying West Nile virus.
Mosquitos carry West Nile virus. Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.

By Jason Phox 

Mosquitos carrying West Nile virus have been found in Point Breeze, the North Side and Wilkinsburg, but the Allegheny County Health Department says so far there have been no cases in people reported.

Still, caution is key because West Nile virus is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the U.S.

Only one in five people infected with the virus develop symptoms, which can include fever, headache, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Fewer than 1% of infected people develop a severe illness.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that people over 60 years old are at greater risk for severe illness. 

“Allegheny County residents, especially those who participate in outdoor recreational activities or work outdoors, should take precautions to avoid becoming infected with West Nile virus both at home and while traveling,” says Jennifer Fiddner, epidemiology research associate supervisor for the Allegheny County Health Department. 

Mosquito breeding sites: 1. Toys and containers 2. Basins and outdoor pools 3. Potted plant saucers 4. Fountains, bowls and waterers 5. Rainwater tanks 6. Gutters, drains and flat roofs 7. Protective tarpaulins 8. Puddles and depressions 9. Ponds with dead leaves at the edge. Graphic courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.

There is no vaccine for the virus but there are ways you can mitigate your risk: 

  • Get rid of standing water where mosquitoes are likely to breed
  • Make sure open doors and windows have screens
  • Use insect repellent on exposed skin, especially at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active

The health department and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection are setting mosquito traps to determine where West Nile virus is appearing.

There are several mosquito traps that residents can use as well. But Debra Bogen, head of the county health department, says residents can significantly reduce the mosquito population by eliminating and treating breeding sites on their properties.

Mosquito breeding sites on private properties and public areas can also be reported to the county online or by calling 412-687-2243.

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