The war on West Nile virus in Philadelphia

FAIRMOUNT PARK - September 6, 2012

Cases of West Nile virus continue to climb at an alarming rate, so communities are keeping up their effort to go after the source: mosquitoes.

The health department has been doing constant testing. Samples from all sections of the city are consistently turning up mosquitoes and their larvae carrying the West Nile virus.

"Probably 20-30 percent of them are coming back positive at this point in time," said the health department's Bill Ferraro. "So it's a good amount."

So at dusk Thursday the city was out spraying for mosquitoes in Fairmount Park in the area near Robin Hood Dell East and Smith Playground.

Nationwide, cases of West Nile virus are up 25 percent in the last week, with nearly 2000 cases reported and 87 deaths. 16 cases have been reported in Pennsylvania.

"I think we had the perfect storm this year with the weather," said Ferraro. "We had a mild winter and then it was a wet spring and then this heat and drought really just drives the mosquitoes."

Last week, the city sprayed in Pennypack Park.

The spray is derived from chrysanthemums. It stays in the air, has no ill effect on humans, and kills mosquitoes on contact. Certain mosquitoes carry the West Nile virus, which can cause an infection that can result in inflammation of the brain and in some cases it is fatal.

"This time of year is when people are being bitten," said Ferraro. "Birds tend to move away if there's not enough water. They look for people to bite at that point in time. That's when you get more cases."

With all the rain there is a lot of standing water, breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Experts advise you to get rid of it on your property, wear long sleeves and pants and keep the mosquito repellent close at hand.

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