The first mosquito carrying West Nile Virus flitted into Berks County, Pa., in early May this year – the earliest this virus has been detected here since the state began tracking in 2000. A few weeks later, the virus was found in mosquitos during routine checks in Pottstown and in Lehigh and York counties. Mosquito experts credit the warm winter and wet spring for an earlier-than-usual start to the mosquito season.
So far this year, 18 of 1661 mosquito samples in 14 Pa. counties have tested positive for West Nile, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The virus has also been found in a mosquito in Burlington County, South Jersey.
West Nile Virus is a headline-grabbing health threat. In most people, it causes no symptoms. About one in five develop a fever, body aches and fatigue. And about one in 150 develop brain inflammation and severe symptoms including a high fever and severe headache (which deserve a quick trip to the doctor’s office). In 2011, there were just six cases in Pennsylvania, seven in New Jersey and one in Delaware and most were mild according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The best way to keep your kids safe? Keep mosquitos from breeding around your house, keep them out of your home and don’t be mosquito bait. (read on for how). “People need to balance the joy and pleasure of being outside with being responsible and careful,” says pediatrician Barbara Gold, M.D., of St. Chris Care at Northeast Pediatrics. Her advice: