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New mosquito in Western Pennsylvania could spread disease

| Monday, Aug. 9, 2010

Allegheny County health officials say they're concerned about a particularly aggressive mosquito that's new to the area.

The Asian Tiger mosquito has been found in West Mifflin, which was sprayed late last month, and the Strip District, where spraying is scheduled for 8 to 10 tonight, weather permitting, near 33rd and Smallman streets.

The biggest concern public health officials have is that the new mosquito will spread West Nile virus and other diseases.

"Unlike other mosquitoes, which bite only at dawn and dusk, this one bites all day long," said Guillermo Cole, a spokesman for the Allegheny County Health Department. "It will bite more people more often."

The proliferation of new pests such as the Asian Tiger results from a variety of conditions, from decades of increased global trade to this year's warmer-than-normal spring and summer.

Areas where mosquito-borne diseases were eradicated decades ago are seeing a re-emergence, officials say. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta counted 46 cases of dengue fever, largely a tropical disease, in the past year -- the first time the disease has appeared in the United States since 1934.

Local health officials say they have documented an increase in the number of mosquitoes this year in Allegheny County.

That's led to more demand for various types of insect repellent this year, said Chris Evans, a brand manager for Atlanta-based Cutter Insect Repellents.

The Asian Tiger, known scientifically as Aedes albopictus, probably entered Hawaii sometime after 1980 and was discovered in Houston in 1985, according to the CDC. The northern-most established infestation in the United States was in Chicago. In the Northeast, it has been reported in York County and in several New Jersey counties.

The Asian Tiger is believed to have arrived in imported tires.

"Tires are a five-star hotel" for mosquitoes, said May Berenbaum, head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois. "Any type of standing water is where mosquitoes breed -- birdbaths, discarded soda cans, even baptismal fonts."

The insects can carry malaria, which kills as many as 2 million people die each year, according to the World Health Organization, and can transmit yellow fever and encephalitis.

"West Nile was a real wake-up call for public health," Berenbaum said. "Lots of urban areas had, for decades, cut back on insect-surveillance programs."

Spraying is scheduled tonight in the West End, though not for the Asian Tiger. Pools of other types of mosquitoes in that area tested positive for West Nile.

The virus first appeared in Allegheny County in 2002 and killed four people that year. It has not been found in humans in the county since 2007.

Additional Information:

Mosquito dos and don'ts

• Wear long sleeves and long pants when possible.

• Use insect repellent and sunscreen. Apply sunscreen first.

• Seek medical attention if you experience the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

• Store insect repellent out of children's reach.

• Don't wear heavily scented soaps and perfumes.

• Don't use insect repellent on babies. Repellent used on older children should contain no more than 10 percent DEET. Oil of eucalyptus products should not be used in children younger than 3. DEET should not be used on infants who are younger than 2 months old.

• Don't use insect repellent that's meant for people on your pets.

• Don't spray insect repellent on your face.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; Food and Drug Administration

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