A former Wilkes-Barre police captain is the first person to die in Pennsylvania this year as a result of complications from the mosquito-borne West Nile Virus.
Joseph Krawetz, 82, died Sunday at Kindred Hospital, Wilkes-Barre. The North End resident started with the police force in 1963 and served for more than a quarter of a century before retiring.
His wife of 51 years, Dorothy, said her husband was an avid gardener and loved walking their Bichon dog, â??Buddy,â? but engaged in few other outdoor activities. She also said they made it a point to not have standing water on the property, which state Department of Environmental Protection officials say is the best way to prevent mosquito pools from forming.
Dorothy Krawetz said her husband began complaining on Aug. 2 about a pain in the back of his neck and she noticed memory lapses, though at his age that didnâ??t seem unusual. He went to see a doctor, and by the end of the next day he was in the hospital. She later learned that West Nile causes neurological issues.
He soon entered a semi-comatose state and was hooked to a ventilator until he died Sunday.
She said she hopes people who hear about her husbandâ??s death take preventative measures to avoid mosquitoes, especially those in high-risk groups such as the elderly.
According to DEP, most people donâ??t get sick from contracting West Nile encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Those who become infected can experience a fever, rash, headache, meningitis, encephalitis or death. Older adults and people with lower-functioning immune systems are the most susceptible to developing the disease, including those with HIV, a recent organ transplant or someone whoâ??s undergoing chemotherapy.
Krawetz was the first county resident to test positive this year, according to the DEP. He and two others tested positive on Monday, bringing the total number of humans statewide testing positive for either West Nile Fever or West Nile encephalitis to 12 this year with peak season still to come.
Last year, there were six human positives for the virus, one as late as Oct. 6, said Kait Gillis, a state Department of Health spokeswoman. But there were no deaths.
Since data was first collected on the disease in 2000, 26 people have died statewide from the virus. Nine died in both 2002 and 2003 and two died in 2004, 2005 and 2006. The local manâ??s death was the first in the state since 2006.
Individuals can take a number of precautionary measures around their homes to help eliminate mosquito-breeding areas, including:
â?˘ Dispose of cans, buckets, plastic containers, ceramic pots or similar containers that hold water.
â?˘ Properly dispose of discarded tires that can collect water. Stagnant water is where most mosquitoes breed.
â?˘ Drill holes in the bottom of outdoor recycling containers.
â?˘ Have clogged roof gutters cleaned every year, particularly if the leaves from surrounding trees have a tendency to plug drains.
â?˘ Turn over plastic wading pools when not in use.
â?˘ Turn over wheelbarrows and donâ??t let water stagnate in birdbaths.
â?˘ Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
â?˘ Clean and chlorinate swimming pools not in use and remove any water that may collect on pool covers.