The annual county program to control West Nile Virus and the mosquitoes that spread it will begin May 1.

On Tuesday, the Lawrence County commissioners hired Pamela and Dennis Stitch to conduct the program between May 1 and Oct . 30. They will be paid $22,800 and $8,550, respectively, with 54 cents per mile reimbursement for using their vehicles.

The two technicians will do surveillance of possible mosquito habitats and work on larval control, as well as educate the public on protecting themselves from the virus.

Janice Hassen, Penn State Extension district director, said after the meeting that residents should assess their outdoor areas because mosquitoes can breed in a small amount of water.

She said they should sweep puddles until they are gone, clean gutters, empty toys that hold water, turn over flowerpots and wheelbarrows, drill holes in tires and refresh water regularly in birdbaths.

She said the program this year will focus on the city of New Castle and Ellwood City. Although suburban areas also will be treated, the focus will be on places like ballfields, where people congregate.

To report areas of standing water, call the extension at (724) 654-8370. Once the program starts, technicians will come out and spray potential breeding grounds.

Money for the program, which is in its 14th year, comes from a grant from the Department of Environmental Protection.

Hassen said that the extension program will not include any surveillance of the Zika virus, but that other agencies may be planning prevention programs. The virus has been reported to be spreading from South America and has been connected with birth defects in babies and other problems.

(Email: m_grzebieniak@ncnewsonline.com)

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Mary was a full-time reporter for the News for four years and covered Mahoning, Union, Shenango, North Beaver and Pulaski townships and Wilmington Board of Education. Past experience: Vindicator, Lisbon Morning Journal, and several weekly newspapers.

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