Montco official: get rid of standing water

The Montgomery County commissioners are urging citizens to get rid of standing water that may become a breeding ground for the mosquitoes that can carry West Nile disease.

Josh Shapiro, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, urged residents to take common-sense precautions to prevent West Nile virus.

“The best way to avoid the disease is to avoid mosquito bites, and the best way to avoid mosquito bites is to eliminate mosquito breeding areas,” Shapiro said.

Surveillance testing has indicated West Nile virus activity is present throughout the county, said the Montgomery County Health Department.

There have been 75 mosquito pools which tested positive for the virus so far this season, compared to 31 positive pools during the same period last year, health officials said.

The first positive test was reported on May 17 this year, compared to June 9 last year. A mosquito pool is a collection of mosquitoes - usually about 50 - of any given species or group that is likely to carry or transmit a virus.

My colleague Mari Schaefer reported on Aug. 14 that two West Nile cases were confirmed in Delaware County. The cases were in males in Lancaster and Franklin Counties. To date, New Jersey has reported one case of the virus.

West Nile, Schaefer wrote, is a mosquito-borne disease that can lead to serious illness, such as meningitis or encephalitis, or death. Officials urge residents to reduce their risk of exposure by eliminating any standing water in their yards, wearing protective clothing, and using insect repellent.

Today, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings declared his city’s recent West Nile virus outbreak to be a state of emergency, the Associated Press reported. He authorized the first aerial spraying of insecticide in almost 40 years, allotting $500,000.

Dallas and other North Texas cities have agreed to the rare spraying from planes to combat the nation’s worst outbreak of West Nile virus so far this year. Dallas last had aerial spraying in 1966, when more than a dozen deaths were blamed on encephalitis, AP said.

More than 200 cases of West Nile and 10 deaths linked to the virus have been reported across Dallas County, where officials authorized aerial spraying last week, AP said. State health department statistics show 381 cases and 16 deaths related to West Nile statewide.

“The number of cases, the number of deaths are remarkable, and we need to sit up and take notice,” the AP quoted Rawlings as saying at a city council briefing. “We do have a serious problem right now.”

Meanwhile, there are steps local citizens can take to thwart mosquitoes from breeding:

1. Pay special attention to discarded tires that may have collected water. Turn them over.
2. Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left out of doors.
3. Clean the roof gutters so they can drain.
4. Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use.
5. Turn over wheelbarrows, and do not allow water to stagnate in birdbaths. (Uh-oh, we are guilty of the latter.)
6. Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
7. Keep swimming pools clean and chlorinated.