The West Nile virus is making an earlier than usual debut in Lackawanna County.
The state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed Tuesday a mosquito collected in Scranton’s East Mountain section tested positive for the virus, its first appearance in the county this year.
“This is probably a month earlier than normal,” said Michael Chisdock, the county’s West Nile program coordinator. “We usually see it around mid-July.”
Lackawanna joins seven other counties, most in the eastern half of the state, where the virus has been detected so far this season, according to the state West Nile Virus Control Program website.
All of the positives have been in mosquito samples. No human cases have been reported.
Chisdock said the infected Scranton mosquito was trapped early last week at Robinson Park.
“What we are doing now is putting out more traps in the immediate area, and we’ll see if there is any more virus that shows up,” he said.
If additional sampling produces a spike in positives, DEP may respond with spraying in the vicinity, “but right now we have to see what’s out there,” Chisdock said.
Last year, the county did not have its first West Nile positive until late August, and there were no more the rest of the season.
“If it’s showing up now, we are probably going to get more positives as the season goes along,” Chisdock said. “Usually, when it starts this early, we get more of them.”
That was the case in 2012, when Lackawanna County had its first positive on May 14, the earliest detection since monitoring began in the early 2000s. The county ended up with a record 25 positive samples by the end of the 2013 season, including its most recent human case.
Chisdock said there is no reason to be alarmed but people should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites, especially if they are going to be outdoors around dusk.
“Put some repellent on, wear long sleeves, that whole drill,” he said. “Prevention starts with personal protection.”
Across Pennsylvania, there were 16 reported cases of West Nile in people in 2016, down from 30 the year before. Most people infected with West Nile virus will have no symptoms, but about one in five will experience mild symptoms that include fever, headache and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands. In less than 1 percent of the cases, an infected individual will develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness.
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West Nile virus positives reported in Lackawanna County over the past decade, with the number of human cases in parentheses:
2016: 1 2015: 12
2014: 2 2013: 19
2012: 25 (1) 2011: 10 (1)
2010: 1 2009: 0
2008: 1 2007: 0
SOURCE: PENNSYLVANIA WEST NILE VIRUS CONTROL PROGRAM