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First hard frost will put an end to West Nile concerns

| Friday, Sept. 21, 2007

KITTANNING --There have been no confirmed cases of West Nile in the county to date, according to Vince Cappo of the county Emergency Management Office, and director of the county's West Nile program.

However, Cappo said the concern over West Nile is still with us until the arrival of the first hard frost.

Cappo said the current West Nile monitoring program was conducted this year by Clarke Mosquito Control Co. of Roselle, Ill. Clarke technicians collected 339 samples from around the county and submitted 79 samples for testing.

"Not all samples were submitted," Cappo said, "because not all mosquitos sampled are capable of carrying the virus. No sample tested turned out positive, and that's good news."

Cappo said there are approximately 59 species of mosquitos common to Pennsylvania but just 26 species can carry West Nile. Cappo said the sampling program is slated to continue until Oct. 15, but could be ended or even extended from that date.

"It all depends on the weather," he said. "If we get a good hard frost statewide before Oct. 15, then the program will end on the date of the frost. There is a possibility that the program could be continued if we do not have a frost before that date and we have instead a spell of warm, wet weather. However, I've never seen the program extended. It's up to the Department of Environmental Protection to make that determination."

Cappo said that this year's program, as in previous years, included mosquito spraying in selected areas as a precautionary measure.

"Spraying was done in Creek Valley, Bethel Township; Applewold; North Buffalo; and the village of Idaho," Cappo said. "The decision to spray was based on the estimated numbers of concentrations of mosquitos that were potential West Nile carriers."

Although the county had no reported cases of West Nile in birds or humans, and no positive samples, one positive sample was found in Adams Township in neighboring Butler County. However, the lone sample was only one of 174 found in other areas of the state. According to the state's official West Nile information Website, www.westnile.state.pa.us, there were seven confirmed cases of West Nile in birds; two in Northampton County and five in Cumberland County. There were also two cases of West Nile being contracted by people, one in Chester County and one in Clearfield County.

Cappo said that altough crisp fall weather is one the way residents should still take the usual precautions against the spread of the virus. He said the most important thing anyone can do he said is to eliminate sources of standing water in old tires, wading pools, buckets, rain gutters, and similar items. Meanwhile, Cappo said he will welcome the first hard frost of the fall season.

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