PHILADELPHIA–The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced today that they have identified the first “pool” of mosquitoes that are positive for West Nile virus in 2022. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has announced that, thus far, they have only found West Nile virus activity in the mosquito population in four counties: Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, and Cumberland. Health Department employees have begun the annual effort to control mosquitoes throughout the city but need the public’s help.

“We all have a role in preventing the spread of West Nile virus,” said Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Palak Raval-Nelson. “West Nile is a disease that spreads from mosquitoes to people and can cause serious disease, and sometimes death. Keeping mosquitoes at bay is the best way to ensure that you don’t get bitten, and you don’t get West Nile.”

West Nile virus is an infection that is spread by infected mosquitoes biting humans that can cause neurologic symptoms. A majority of people who are infected with West Nile virus will not develop symptoms, however, one in five individuals infected will develop fever and flu-like symptoms. One in 150 people infected will develop severe West Nile virus infection that causes inflammation of the brain or spinal cord 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, speak with 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. In 2021, there were ten documented cases in Philadelphia, but positive mosquito pools were found in all areas of the city.

The Health Department’s Vector Control Services program has already begun their annual work to prevent mosquitoes. 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 flowerpots, 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.
  • 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 do 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 Lemon 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 some mosquitoes are most active.

Learn more about how you can fight the bite on the Health
Department’s YouTube channel: