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Allegheny County Receives Grant To Combat West Nile Virus

Twenty-five counties across Pennsylvania are splitting $2 million in funds from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in an effort to fight West Nile virus and the mosquitos that carry it.

Allegheny County received $171,400 this year to study and control the infected insect populations, while Philadelphia County received the most with a $244,340 grant.

The majority of Allegheny County’s funding (about $100,000) will go toward trapping and testing mosquitos, while about $40,000 will be used to purchase and spray pesticides, according to Dave Namey, manager of the Allegheny County Health Department’s Housing and Community Environment Program.

“Our goal is to keep the mosquito population down,” Namey said. “We plan to do our part by baiting approximately 8,000 catch basins throughout the county with pesticide.”

The number of West Nile Virus cases varies each year and is primarily dependent on the weather, according to Namey. Last year, 1,240 mosquitos, 14 humans and one horse were infected with the virus, according to the DEP. In 2012, the DEP found 60 human cases of the virus and 3,410 infected mosquitos in the state.

“It’s kind of tapered off from when the virus originally came to the state,” Namey said. “There was a high incidents of West Nile Virus and a lot more human cases than we’re seeing now.”

Namey said it’s impossible to predict this early into the year whether it will be a good or bad summer for virus-carrying mosquito populations.

“If the weather is cool and not so wet, it might not be a bad summer. So, it’s all dependent on the weather,” he said. “If we have hot weather and we have a lot of rain, then it could be a season where the population of mosquitos is up.”

The virus is transferred from birds to humans. It typically has mild symptoms.

“It might be a low-grade fever. They might experience some chills and aches with that and it may go away or subside in two or three days and they might not even realize it was the West Nile Virus,” he said. “And that’s the typical reaction if there is a reaction. Some people may not even have a reaction.”

In rare, severe cases, the virus can lead to a neurological disorder causing paralysis if left untreated.

To prevent the spread of West Nile Virus, Namey said Allegheny County residents should remove all stagnant water from their property. Mosquitos can breed in just one inch of standing water.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."