West Nile Virus found in Butler County

Conservation District finds first positive mosquito sample of the year

Published by Annabelle Chipps, Date: September 8, 2023
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Multiple mosquitos in Zelienople, Pa. have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). The area is 20 minutes from campus and there are currently no human cases in the county. 

WNV is a disease that mosqutios pass into the blood stream of humans and animals when they bite.

Only 20% of those infected show symptoms, which are typically flulike. However, it can be potentially fatal for certain populations, like older adults and immunocompromised people. The disease can cause inflammation of the skull and brain. 

“This is our first positive of the year,” said Zoe Heckathorn, who is the Vector Management Coordinator at the Mercer County Conservation District—an organization that focuses on environmental work in Butler, Mercer and Crawford counties. The group tests mosquitos weekly for WNV. 

“We have a few positives here in Mercer County,” Heckathorn said. “We have one in Crawford County. There’s not usually as many positives in Butler County.”

The Mercer County Conservation District is treating the area with multiple pesticides in the coming days. 

“One’s a bacteria based pesticide that only targets these types of bugs… there’s another pesticide [that is] still safe for most most organisms,” Heckathorn said. “We’re super, super safe with that… we’re going to try the bacterial kind of base pesticide first, and then wrap it around, see if we need to do further treatment.”

To protect themselves from infection, students can wear long sleeve and pants and purchase mosquito-killing items and pesticides. It is also helpful to stay inside during dusk and dawn when the insect is most active. Finally, you can bug proof your house and reduce the amount of stagnant water near your residence. 

This is not the first time mosquitos have tested positive for WNV in Butler county. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental protection, there have been 697 people infected and 43 who have died from it in the state. 

If you suspect you or a family member may be infected with WNV, talk to your health care provider or contact the Student Health Center at (724) 738-2052 immediately. 

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