Delaware County Council and the county Department of Intercommunity Health are alerting residents that the first human cases of West Nile Virus of 2012 have been confirmed in Delaware County.
Delaware County Senior Medical Advisor Dr. George Avetian said the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) confirmed two human cases in Delaware County, both males, as of Tuesday. The cases are now posted as part of the data that is continually updated on the DEP website at www.westnile.state.pa.us.
The two Delaware County cases come just five days after the Department of Health (DoH) reported the first two human WNV cases statewide, in Lancaster and Franklin counties.
Avetian said the human cases are not unexpected considering that the DEP surveillance program is reporting an unprecedented level of mosquitos carrying the West Nile Virus (WNV) this year.
He said the report of human cases in Delaware County serves as a cautionary reminder to all residents to protect themselves from exposure to mosquitos, which spread West Nile virus.
“The surveillance program in Pennsylvania is showing higher numbers of WNV-infected mosquitos than any other summer since monitoring began 10 years ago. We don’t want to alarm people, but it’s important to take precautions. Prevention is the best treatment. The risk for WNV infection is highest during August and September, so we are in prime season, and the risk doesn’t end until the first hard frost,” Avetian said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reported the earliest detection of West Nile virus carrying mosquitos in the state since testing began in 2000, likely due to the unseasonably warm temperatures in March which caused the virus cycle to begin earlier this year.
There were no human cases of West Nile virus in Delaware County in 2011. There were six human cases statewide in 2011.
While most infected people do not get sick, a small percentage of those infected will experience a fever, rash, headache, meningitis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Anyone is at risk, but older adults and people with compromised immune systems have the highest risk of developing severe illness because their bodies have a harder time fighting off disease.
Intercommunity Health is coordinating the mosquito surveillance and control portion of the multi-agency effort in conjunction with DEP and the Delaware County Penn State Cooperative Extension.
Avetian emphasizes the best course of action is prevention and education.
West Nile virus information is available on the county website at www.co.delaware.pa.us and at the state’s site at www.westnile.state.pa.us, which posts the latest statistics and cases. Residents can sign up to receive email information regarding West Nile viral activity and spraying at the state site.
Avetian said there is no specific treatment for WNV. In cases with mild symptoms, people can experience fever and aches that pass on their own, although the illness may last weeks to months even in healthy persons. In more severe cases, people need to go to the hospital where they get supportive treatment including intravenous fluids, help with breathing and attention to any complications.
Avetian said residents can take a few simple steps in their own back yards to reduce their risk of contracting the West Nile virus. Mosquitoes will develop in any puddle that lasts for more than four days.
Because dead birds can be an indicator of increased risk for West Nile virus infections, people are asked to report dead birds by going to the Pennsylvania West Nile website at www.westnile.state.pa.us, or by calling Intercommunity Health Coordination at (610) 891-5311.
For information about West Nile virus, contact the Department of Health at 1 (877) PA-HEALTH, or visit the West Nile website at www.westnile.state.pa.us.