PHILADELPHIA–The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced today that they have identified the first case of human West Nile virus in 2019. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has announced that they have found West Nile virus activity in the mosquito population in at least 57 of the 67 counties in the state, including all counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. Health Department employees are working in a variety of ways to control mosquitoes throughout the city, but need the public’s help.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley reminds residents to take precautions to combat the virus, “We all have a role in preventing the spread of West Nile Virus. And it’s easy to do: wear mosquito repellent and dump out standing water.”

West Nile Virus is a neurologic infection that is spread by infected mosquitoes biting humans. A majority of people who are infected with West Nile Virus will not develop symptoms, however, one in five individuals will develop fever and flu-like symptoms. One in 150 people will develop severe West Nile Virus infection that causes inflammation of the brain or spine that can lead to death. While people of any age can be infected with West Nile Virus, those 50 years of age and older are at highest risk for severe disease and death. If you or a family member are experiencing unexplained headaches, weakness, and fatigue,  see your primary care provider.

Since 2001, the annual number of severe cases among city residents has fluctuated between no cases and up to 24 cases, with peak seasons in 2003, 2010, and 2018. The last five years have varied in severity, with only three cases seen in 2017, and 17 cases seen in 2018.

The Health Department’s Vector Control Services program works every year to prevent mosquitoes through a variety of ways. So far this summer, they have treated more than 40,000 storm drain inlets with larvicide to stop mosquito breeding. Residents are encouraged to report mosquito problems to the Health Department by calling 215-685-9000. Reporting mosquitoes will trigger an inspection and, if appropriate, treatment of the problem.

The most effective way to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus is to keep mosquitoes from breeding on your property.

Tips to mosquito-proof your home and neighborhood:

  • Anything that can hold water can breed mosquitoes, from soda bottle caps to discarded tires. Check your property for these sources of standing water and dump them out.
  • At least once or twice a week, empty water from flower pots, pet food and water dishes, birdbaths, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, cans, and any other items outside your home.
  • Empty and store wading pools for kids on their side.
  • Check for clogged rain gutters and clean them out.
  • Remove unused tires, and other items that could collect water.
  • Aerate ornamental ponds or stock them with fish.
  • Be sure to check for containers or trash in places that may be hard to see, such as under bushes or under your home.
  • Keep well-fitted screens on both windows and doors.
  • Call the Health Department’s Mosquito Complaint hotline at 215-685-9000 to report mosquito problems in your neighborhood.

Given that some mosquitoes will find a way to survive, there are things that residents can to avoid being bitten.

Tips to prevent West Nile virus for you and your family:

  • Wear insect repellent on exposed skin when outdoors. The insect repellant should contain one of the following ingredients: DEET, Picardin, Oil of Eucalyptus, or PMD.
  • When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever you are outdoors.
  • Consider staying indoors at dawn, dusk, and in the early evening, when mosquitoes are most active.