Utica, NY (WIBX) - A spike in mosquito populations is causing nationwide worry, as positive West Nile cases reach unparalleled levels.

Nearby states, including Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, have seen upticks in both positive mosquito tests and dead birds.

According to Ken Fanelli, with the Oneida County Health Department, though there have been no positive cases locally the group tests mosquito batches each week.

West Nile virus, in most cases, causes no symptoms to those infected.

"Eighty percent of the people who might be infected with West Nile virus are asymptomatic," Fanelli said. "They would never even necessarily know that they had West Nile virus. In about 20 percent of the cases, people who become infected will develop West Nile fever."

Those showing symptoms eventually develop head and body aches and sometimes rashes. Severe symptoms include paralysis and coma, and in rare cases, death.

But, Fanelli says there are several ways to protect yourself from the threat of mosquito bites.

"Cover as much skin as possible and use an insect repellent containing DEET," Fanelli said. "If possible, avoid the outdoors when mosquitoes generally feed, and that's generally dawn and dusk when they're most active."

He also suggests removing standing water from around your home, including buckets, wading pools and rain gutters. Standing water is important for mosquitoes because it's a premium location for laying eggs.

According to a report by Penn State University's Agricultural Science program, in most cases, mosquitoes will not travel more than a half mile from their hatching site, prolonging mosquito problems.

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