West Nile Virus
West Nile encephalitis had never been documented in the Western Hemisphere before the late summer of 1999, when an outbreak occurred in the New York City metropolitan area. In 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 62 human cases of encephalitis, including seven deaths, although the actual human infection rate was much higher. Most people who are infected with the West Nile virus have no symptoms or may experience mild illness such as fever, headache, body aches, mild skin rash, or swollen lymph glands.
Infected mosquitoes transmit the West Nile virus. These mosquitoes usually bite and infect wild birds -- the primary host of the virus -- but can also infect horses and other mammals, in addition to humans. In September 2000, the first cases of West Nile virus were confirmed in birds, mosquitoes, and a horse in Pennsylvania. By 2002, West Nile virus had spread throughout most of the United States.
Penn State's College
of Agricultural Sciences took a proactive role on this issue.
In April 2000, a West Nile Virus Coordinating Committee was
assembled and included representatives from administration,
the Pesticide Education Program, the Entomology
Department, the Veterinary
Science Department, the Dairy
and Animal Science Department, and Lehigh
County Extension. This committee developed publications,
worked with PA state agencies, and established contacts outside
Penn State Cooperative Extension and Outreach has designated one person in each county office to serve as a West Nile virus contact person. If you have any questions about West Nile virus, they would be an excellent source of information. You may e-mail them or if you don't have e-mail access, you can always contact the Department of Health through their toll-free 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) number.