The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is planning for the worst while hoping for the best when it comes to the West Nile virus.
The agency announced Wednesday that it is awarding nearly $2.2 million in grants to 26 counties across the state to help fund their West Nile virus programs.
"This grant funding will help the counties that are most affected by West Nile virus to monitor and control mosquitos," said DEP Secretary Mike Krancer. "It is important for us to work with our county partners to protect human health at the local level."
The funding is an increase of about $20,000 for each county over the grants awarded in 2012, which ended up being a record year for West Nile virus in Pennsylvania because of a mild winter and early spring, officials said.
The first positive mosquito was discovered in Exeter Twp., Berks Co., on May 4 last year, the earliest ever. Berks will receive $53,310 from the state in 2013.
Other counties on the list for state funding include Bucks ($156,699), Chester ($110,701), Lancaster ($104,153), Lebanon ($69,519), Lehigh ($92,992), Monroe ($30,000), Montgomery ($129,144) and Philadelphia ($219,998).
In humans, the virus can cause West Nile fever and encephalitis, an infection that can cause inflammation of the brain and death, said officials, who noted that most people bitten by an infected mosquito will never develop any symptoms, and only one person in 150 people with symptoms will develop the more serious West Nile encephalitis.
To reduce the risk of West Nile virus, the DEP and county staff use a combination of education, source reduction and mosquito control, the latter of which is largely done by using larval control products, such as Bti, which is derived from soil bacteria, officials said.
If necessary, the DEP said man-made adult mosquito control products derived from the chrysanthemum flower are used to reduce mosquito populations when they pose an elevated risk of infecting people.
The DEP will begin mosquito surveillance in early May. In the meantime, residents are encouraged to prepare for mosquito season by removing all standing water from their property.