State officials are treating some areas with large mosquito populations.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Fewer than 10 people attended a meeting to explain what Lawrence County is doing about the West Nile virus.
Officials from the county's Penn State Cooperative Extension Office and the state departments of environmental protection and health presented information on the disease, its history and its transmission Monday at George Washington Intermediate School.
Another public forum is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday in Tree of Life Wellness Center in Ellwood City.
Kathleen Magaro, coordinator for the state's West Nile virus program, said Lawrence County is the first western county to show signs of the virus.
Five dead birds have tested positive for the virus so far, and 12 others are waiting to be tested.
No human cases have been reported.
Since Lawrence County discovered its first dead infected bird, others have been found in Mercer and Allegheny counties.
The virus is also present in eastern Ohio counties.
At highest risk
Rick DeBlasio and John Reichard, both administrators at homes for the elderly, attended to learn more about prevention and signs for the illness.
"We wanted to come and see what's going on because the aged population is most affected," said Reichard, administrator of Overlook, a personal-care home and retirement community in New Wilmington.
The virus can be deadly to the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.
Others will have no symptoms or flulike aches, pains and possibly a rash, health officials said.
Reichard and DeBlasio, administrator for Silver Oaks Nursing Home in New Castle, said both facilities are planning precautions.
Insect repellent containing DEET will be applied to residents for outside activities, and standing water will be eliminated, they said.
Doctors and nurses will also be advised to look for symptoms in patients who cannot communicate, they said.
Scott Dudzic of the DEP said people should eliminate standing water, which is the breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Holes can be punched in tires to drain them, stagnant water should be emptied often, and pellets that kill mosquito larvae can be placed in standing water such as rainwater basins and horse troughs, he said.
Dudzic noted that DEP is spraying areas in Lawrence County where the mosquito population is high with species known to carry the virus.
The New Castle sanitation plant was treated last week, and rainwater catch basins with stagnant water are being treated, he said.
Dudzic noted that they will treat only areas infected with mosquitoes known to carry the disease. About 40 of the 60 different species are carriers, he said.
These mosquitoes pick it up from infected birds or wildlife and pass it on to people, Magaro said.
It cannot be spread by humans or other animals, she added.
Magaro said the state will continue testing dead birds for the virus until they find five dead birds in one municipality or ZIP code.
"After that, we still want to know about sightings of dead birds, but we won't test because we know it's there," she said.
Anyone finding a dead bird, specifically a crow, blue jay, owl or hawk, can call the health department at (724) 656-3088 or the state at (877) 724-3258.