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West Nile Virus: What to Know

A close-up of a mosquito biting human skin. Photo by Pexels user Jimmy Chan. Used courtesy of pexels.comWe have seen, for this year, both the first case of an individual testing positive for West Nile Virus and scientists have identified the first group of mosquitoes to carry the virus. West Nile Virus is spread by mosquitoes and can cause encephalitis, a condition that causes brain inflammation. The Southern Pennsylvania-Northern Maryland region contains the highest West Nile Virus infection rate in the nation.

West Nile Virus maintains itself in nature by cycling between mosquitoes in the genus Culex, and within certain species of birds. An infected mosquito (the vector) bites an uninfected bird (the host) and the virus multiplies within the bird. An uninfected mosquito can then bite the infected bird and is then infected itself. This cycle occurs repeatedly through summer and fall, increasing the likelihood of someone being bitten by an infected mosquito.

There is no vaccine against West Nile Virus. The most effective way to protect yourself is to make sure that your yard is not mosquito friendly by preventing even the smallest areas of stagnant water from collecting. Mosquitoes require stagnant water to breed, so preventing stagnant water around your home will reduce the number of mosquitoes that you are exposed to. Additional measures to prevent being bit by mosquitoes include, but are not limited to, ensuring all windows in your home have functional screens, wearing clothing that prevents exposed skin, and using an effective insect repellent. 

Additional information about the West Nile Virus in Pennsylvania can be found at: