DEP awards West Nile Virus Control grants to Berks and Montgomery

The Department of Environmental Protection announced it is awarding nearly $2.2 million in West Nile Virus Control program grants to 26 counties, which are slated to begin surveillance activities in early April.Berks was awarded $53,310 and Montgomery was awarded $129,114.

This grant funding will help the counties that are most affected by West Nile Virus to monitor and control mosquitos, DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. It is important for us to work with our county partners to protect human health at the local level.

DEP developed the funding proposals in consultation with county officials. The total county grant award is about $20,000 more than the 2012 grants. This additional grant funding will be used to cover the costs of new spray equipment for county-based West Nile Virus (WNV) programs. Gov. Corbetts proposed 2013-14 budget maintains 2012 funding levels for DEPs WNV Control program.

Because of the mild winter and early spring, 2012 proved to be a record year for WNV in Pennsylvania. The first positive mosquito was discovered May 4, 2012, the earliest ever. That kicked off a year that brought the highest recorded numbers of human, bird, mosquito and veterinary positives since 2003.

In humans, the virus can cause West Nile fever and encephalitis, an infection that can cause inflammation of the brain and death. Most people bitten by an infected mosquito will never develop any symptoms, and only one person in 150 people with symptoms will develop the more serious West Nile encephalitis.

To reduce the risk of WNV, DEP and county staff use a combination of education, source reduction and mosquito control. Mosquito control is largely done by using larval control products, such as Bti, which is derived from soil bacteria. If necessary, man-made adult mosquito control products derived from the chrysanthemum flower are used to reduce mosquito populations when they pose an elevated risk of infecting people. Adult mosquito control products are effective in controlling mosquito populations and pose little to no harmful effect to humans, plants or other animals.

The DEP WNV program will begin mosquito surveillance in early May. Residents are encouraged to remove all standing water from their property to prepare for mosquito season and prevent infection.

To report a dead bird or file a mosquito complaint, or for more information about WNV, visit www.westnile.state.pa.us or call 717-346-8238.