Phila. region fares well with West Nile grants

Posted: March 28, 2013

Nearly a third of the state's West Nile Virus Control grants are coming to southeastern Pennsylvania, where last year 26 people got sick with the virus and two died.

Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Chester and Bucks counties will receive $727,010 for West Nile surveillance and prevention in 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced Wednesday.

Counties begin monitoring for West Nile in early April, but infections in mosquitoes and birds usually aren't detected until mid-June.

Last year, due to the mild winter and warm spring, the first infected mosquito was found on May 4 - the earliest on record, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Last year was a particularly bad year for West Nile in Pennsylvania, and densely populated areas were hardest hit, the state said.

"Hot spots in general tend to be areas where there are more people. Not necessarily because mosquitoes are attracted to people, but because they are attracted to standing water," said DEP spokeswoman Amanda Witman.

In the southeast region, which consists of Philadelphia and the its four neighboring counties, 26 human cases were confirmed between July and September. In Philadelphia, two patients died.

Still, most people who are bitten by an infected mosquito don't exhibit the fever or other symptoms associated with West Nile.

According to DEP, only one person in 150 develops the more serious West Nile encephalitis, which can cause brain inflammation and death.

The grants - $2.2 million statewide, a slight increase over last year - will allow counties to supplement state efforts such as education, draining or spraying of mosquito hot spots, and reporting to the state's online database, www.westnile.state.pa.us.

As temperatures rise, residents are urged to remove any standing water from their property and report any sightings of dead birds.

"It just takes about a teaspoon of water for a mosquito to use it to breed," Witman said.

Contact Jessica Parks at 610-313-8117, jparks@philly.com or follow on Twitter @JS-Parks.

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