The Pennsylvania West Nile virus control program reported that four mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile Virus in Centre County, but it's too early in the season to consider it a major risk, experts say.
The West Nile virus is a bird virus, but it infects other animals, such as mosquitoes and horses. Humans often get infected with the virus when a mosquito carrying it bites them, according to the program.
The virus has been in the United States for 13 years, and the first incident was reported in New York, said Eddie Holmes, Penn State professor of Biology and Eberly College of Science Distinguished Senior Scholar.
The first West Nile incident in Pennsylvania was reported in 2000. The virus is more common in some areas than others because of the combination of temperatures, mosquito densities, bird densities and the amount of people living in the area, Andrew Read, director of Penn State's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, said.
During August and September, there is usually a major risk for the West Nile virus because the mosquito population is more abundant during those months.
"That's why it's too early in the season to get worried," Read said. "It's an early warning for mosquitoes, but it takes a lot of mosquitoes to get people sick."
Centre County, as of press time Wednesday, has a low risk of West Nile virus, according to virus control program's website.
"Since the West Nile incidents are not high, there's no reason to panic. They are not reporting any human cases yet. But people need to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes," Holmes said.
To avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes, people should use mosquito repellent and avoid having standing waters such as birdbaths, pots or plastic containers.
"Mosquitoes breed in standing water and lots of mosquito infections are spread the same way," Holmes said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website mentions that some people may not experience symptoms, but people that do experience symptoms can develop West Nile fever or Severe West Nile disease, also known as West Nile encephalitis. It can take from two to 15 days to develop the disease symptoms and common symptoms are headaches, high fever and body aches.
"There's no treatment that can cure the West Nile virus. People just have to wait for the symptoms to pass and hope for the best," Read said.