Mosquito tests raise West Nile concerns

The number of mosquitoes in Berks County infected with the West Nile virus may be heading for a seven-year record, the Berks County Conservation District board has learned.

The potentially deadly virus spread by the insects can cause serious illness, including high fever and headache, muscle weakness, rashes and other medical problems lasting for weeks, district Manager Joseph Crea noted.

As of Friday, the state Department of Environmental Protection had confirmed 17 infected mosquitoes in the county, up from 14 on Thursday and 11 just a week ago, according to Robert B. Hopkins, district ecologist.

The Berks record, set in 2003, is 36 infected mosquitoes, along with nine human cases and 23 dead birds, including six chickens, Hopkins said.

“We’re being very proactive in trapping and treating mosquitoes, with Hopkins going out every night to check traps and spray infected areas,” Crea said.

The mosquitoes’ peak feeding time is dusk to dawn, Hopkins said.

Although the last human case of the virus in Berks was in 2006, Hopkins urged people to wear insect repellents, long-sleeve shirts, socks and long pants.

Last summer, before the West Nile virus season closed at the end of October, Berks had tallied only seven infected mosquitoes, one crow and one horse, he said.

Crea said the mosquitoes that tested positive this week were trapped at three locations in Wyomissing and two in Caernarvon Township.

Previous positives came from Bethel, Centre, Exeter, Spring and Washington townships, and St. Lawrence.

Crea urged people to get rid of any standing water around their homes.

“A glass of water left on the porch can become a breeding ground, as can a bottle cap,” he said.

“It’s been two weeks without rain, but they’re still breeding,” Hopkins said.

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