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No trace yet of West Nile virus in Armstrong

| Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, 1:01 a.m.

Despite a large mosquito population, state officials have yet to find traces of the West Nile virus in Armstrong County this summer.

The Department of Environmental Protection collected 44 mosquitoes, and tested 23 of them, this summer, and found none were infected, according to Amanda Witman, a spokeswoman for the organization.

This year, due to a rainy spring and summer, the mosquito population is very high, but the West Nile virus is not prevalent, Witman said.

“Last year was a record year for West Nile virus in Pennsylvania, so to have more mosquitoes this year, with fewer cases of the virus is impressive,” Witman said. “We believe the virus is just not as present in this year's population, due to the lower temperatures this spring.”

West Nile virus was most prevalent across Pennsylvania last year, when the DEP found 3,656 infected mosquitoes across 52 counties. The organization reported 60 human cases of West Nile virus in 2012.

According to DEP records, the last time officials found traces of the West Nile virus in Armstrong County was Sept. 1, 2011, when one infected mosquito was found in Cowanshannock.

This year, the DEP confirmed 145 cases of mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus across the Commonwealth.

According to the DEP website, 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus show no symptoms.

The most common symptoms include fever, head and body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands and a rash, lasting a few days to several weeks. More severe symptoms could include blindness, disorientation, coma, numbness, paralysis, stupor or tremors.

Officials in Allegheny County, which received reports of three mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus this year, fear a more aggressive breed of mosquito could cause the virus to spread quickly.

According to the Allegheny County Health Department, the Asian Tiger mosquito was found in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood.

The mosquito, which originates in Southeast Asia and has a black-and-white striped body and legs, is an aggressive biter from dawn to dusk. It could transmit the virus and other mosquito-borne diseases to humans and domestic animals, according to Ron Voorhees, Allegheny County's acting health director.

Witman said DEP officials have found the Asian Tiger mosquito across Pennsylvania, but it is unlikely it will contribute to the spread of West Nile virus.

“Last year, not a single mosquito with West Nile virus was one of the Asian Tigers,” Witman said. “It's unlikely the Asian Tigers will carry the virus, but they tend to pose more of a problem for folks trying to enjoy the outdoors.”

Although the DEP plans to conduct large-scale sprays to control mosquitoes in Bucks and Berks counties, the organization does not plan to spray in Armstrong County.

“We won't spray for mosquitoes until we have confirmed cases of West Nile virus,” she said.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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