West Nile virus has not yet been detected in Allegheny County this year, but starting today the Health Department begins treating storm water catch basins to combat the breeding of mosquitoes that can carry the virus.
"Every year we treat these catch basins to try to keep mosquitoes from reaching high numbers," said department spokesman Guillermo Cole. "The more the mosquitoes there are, the more likely we'll have mosquitoes with West Nile that could potentially be transmitted to humans."
The virus was detected in a mosquito sample taken early this month in neighboring Greene County, but according to Cole, "it's just a matter of time" before the virus is found in mosquitoes in Pittsburgh.
Department staff use pesticides that are non-toxic to people, pets and aquatic life. Cole says they will treat 10,000 catch basins in certain areas of Pittsburgh including eastern and western wards as well as on the North Side and South Side "because they have a history of West Nile activity."
Cole says although there have been no human cases of West Nile in Allegheny County since 2007, last year saw a surge in mosquito samples that tested positive...58.
He says the worst year for West Nile in the county was 2002 when 22 people contracted the virus; 4 of them died.
He says the catch basins will be treated from 4 to 9 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Treated basins will be marked with bright green chalk.
The department is asking residents to help stop West Nile by eliminating mosquito-breeding sites around their homes by getting getting rid of items that hold water such as old tires, cans, unused flower pots; cleaning out roof gutters and storm drains; changing the water in birdbaths once or twice a week; and, emptying and turning over plastic wading pools when not in use.