Though West Nile Virus has broken out across the United States, it recently found its way to Centre County, where positive cases of 41 mosquitoes, 12 birds, a horse and a human were identified.
Centre County West Nile Virus Program Coordinator Bert Lavan said there is not a singular reason why this epidemic is occurring, but that the mild winter and early spring may have contributed to it.
“The virus is obviously here to stay until the end of the year, when the frost shuts the mosquitoes down,” he said.
According to the Center for Disease Control , 1,118 people have been infected with the disease and 41 have died from it, which is an all time high.
Lavan said though mosquitoes carry the disease, West Nile Virus resides in birds.
He said he works with the West Nile Virus Control Program, which was started in 2000 by the state, to help decrease the spreading of the virus.
Lavan said they perform mosquito surveillance control by trapping them, freezing them on dry ice and shipping them to Harrisburg to test for the disease.
“What we really try to do is control mosquitoes, reduce the number of mosquitoes and reduce the potential infection of humans,” he said. “We spray, but what we do far more often is treat standing water for mosquito larvae to stop them from hatching into adults.”
Shelley Haffner, of the Penn State Student Health Center , said the problem is that more specimens are testing positive for the disease, which increases the risk of humans contracting it.
“There are things that people need to do to keep themselves safe,” she said. “But as far as eradicating West Nile, I don’t think it’s a possibility.”
In a press briefing, Lyle Peterson of the CDC said symptoms of the virus, such as a fever and fatigue can occur very quickly and can last for days or weeks.
To avoid contracting the disease, Haffner said people should avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by wearing long pants and sleeves in the early morning and evening and using insect repellant.
She also said to avoid standing water — where mosquitoes tend to breed — and remove any standing water in a house or apartment, such as a birdbath.
“Although there will be no virus transmission over the winter, at least in the northern states, it will still be here next year,” Lavan said. “It obviously survives year to year, because we haven’t had a year without it.”