York County has the most mosquitoes carrying West Nile
More mosquitoes in York County have tested positive for West Nile virus than in any other county across the state.
The county has reported 78 positive tests. The next closest is Adams County, with a recorded 65 mosquitoes testing positive for the virus.
"The biggest thing here, unfortunately, is that we haven't gotten everyone to clean up their yards and get rid of that standing water where mosquitoes breed," said Thomas Smith, West Nile virus program administrator for the York County Penn State Cooperative Extension. "Now the West Nile virus itself is a completely separate issue. The virus is always here throughout our bird population."
The cycle: The virus is transmitted through a cycle. An infected bird is bitten by a mosquito that then goes on to bite people.
"We have all these mosquitoes feeding on birds, but when the birds settle down they start looking to us to get their fill," Smith said.
Smith said there have been no confirmed human cases of the virus this year, but that is likely to change.
"At this point, with the amount of mosquitoes testing positive that we've detected and the population growing, it's very likely that we will be seeing cases soon," he said.
In fact, if 10 female mosquitoes laid eggs today — each one with the potential to produce several hundred eggs — they could easily turn into a quarter of a million new bugs, Smith said.
Symptoms: "It's a virus, so the symptoms will be similar to any other flu that we get in the winter," Smith said.
Those who are concerned about infection should look out for aching, fever and stomach pains among other flu-like symptoms, he said.
"That's pretty much how our immune system responds to virus," he said. "Like a regular flu, there's also no treatment for West Nile; your immune system has to respond."
Those who are healthier may not experience any symptoms at all despite being bitten by an infected mosquito, Smith said.
"People who are 50 and older or those who are sick, those going through cancer treatment, those are the people at risk for some pretty severe symptoms, and that demographic makes up a sizable part of our community," he said.
Taking action: Smith said crews will be spraying throughout the week to help shrink the county's mosquito population, though rain has slightly impeded that process.
"At this point this is the only thing we can do to knock down that population," he said. "Our goal is to stay ahead of the transmission to the human."
Spraying only kills adult mosquitoes, Smith noted, calling on the community for assistance in fighting the mosquito problem.
"Mosquitoes need water to breed," he said. "Clean up any standing water, any bucket or container you have outside, (and) turn it upside down so it doesn't collect any moisture. If we spray we'll get the adults, but that won't matter match if a whole bunch of new eggs are hatching."
Now through September is the peak of West Nile virus season, Smith said.
"If you're going outside, especially in the evenings, make sure you're wearing bug spray," he said.
— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at firstname.lastname@example.org.