Confirmed West Nile case is close to home

Summer’s here, and with warmer weather come that perennial pest problem: mosquitoes.

Those mosquitoes bring something more with them, however, the threat of West Nile virus.

Though it’s early in the season, Pennsylvania already has reports of three positive tests for the virus and two of them are right next door in Erie County.

According to the Pennsylvania West Nile Control Program website, one avian sample and one mosquito sample have already tested positive for the virus in Erie County.

The other positive test, found in a mosquito, was taken in Adams County.

Amanda Witman, press aide with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), said this year’s numbers shouldn’t cause alarm.

“We are very early in the West Nile virus season and typically don’t forecast the outlook for the year,” Witman cautioned. “However, based on the amount of and timing of the positives we have collected thus far, we can safely say that this year will not be as bad as last year and will likely be more of a typical year as far as West Nile virus is concerned.”

Last year, 3,656 positive test results were recorded in 52 counties in the state, including 60 human positives in 24 counties. The virus resulted in four deaths.

By comparison, in 2011 there were 1,331 positive results with only seven human cases and in 2010 there were 1,112 positive results were recorded, including 28 human positives.

All 15 of the Pennsylvania counties that were free of West Nile positives last year, including Warren County, were areas where testing did not occur due to limited funding.

A number of counties where testing was not conducted still registered positive test results, including Forest County. All counties with an active monitoring programming recorded positive test results.

Locally, monitoring will be conducted this year.

“Because of the significant amount of West Nile virus found in Pennsylvania last year, our West Nile virus program has grown to include Warren County,” according to Witman.

Monitoring for Warren County is being handled out of DEP’s Northwest Regional Office in Meadville. Eric Mosbacher, coordinator for Warren County, was unable to be reached for further comment on the program.