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August 24, 2011

08/25/11 The State’s first human case of West Nile virus has been confirmed in Jefferson County, State health officials announced Tuesday. Hoosiers are reminded to be watchful of mosquitoes and to take steps to protect themselves from West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

In addition to the human case, mosquito groups in 11 counties have now tested positive for the virus.  Those counties include: Adams, Allen, Bartholomew, Boone, Carroll, Hamilton, Hendricks, Henry, Marion, Morgan and Vanderburgh.  State health officials have also confirmed the virus in a crow in Marion County and a horse in Noble County.  The Indiana State Department of Health has collected and tested nearly 100,000 mosquitoes, dividing them into more than 1,600 pools for West Nile virus and Saint Louis encephalitis.  There have been no positive findings for Saint Louis encephalitis to date.

“This case serves as a reminder that the virus is circulating in the state and humans are still susceptible to infection,” said Jennifer House, DVM, director of Zoonotic Epidemiology at the Indiana State Department of Health.  “Normally the virus causes only mild disease, but a small number of people will develop more severe illness.  The best thing people can do to prevent getting infected with West Nile virus is to take some simple steps to protect themselves from being bitten by a mosquito.”

Dr. House says some of these steps should include:

  • Avoiding places where mosquitoes are biting;
  • Applying insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to clothes and exposed skin;
  • Installing or repairing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the home; and,
  • When possible, wearing pants and long sleeves, especially if walking in woody or marshy areas.

“West Nile virus usually causes West Nile fever, a milder form of the illness, which can include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph glands or a rash,” said Dr. House.  “Some individuals will develop a more severe form of the disease with encephalitis or meningitis and other neurological syndromes, including flaccid muscle paralysis.”

Dr. House says it is also a good idea to take steps to rid properties of potential mosquito breeding grounds by:

  • Discarding old tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or other containers that can hold water;
  • Repairing failed septic systems;
  • Drilling holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors;
  • Keeping grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed;
  • Cleaning clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains;
  • Frequently replacing the water in pet bowls;
  • Flushing ornamental fountains and birdbaths periodically; and,
  • Aerating ornamental pools, or stock them with predatory fish

Horse owners should have their horses vaccinated for both West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis.  There is no vaccine and no cure for West Nile virus or Eastern equine encephalitis for humans.  Individuals with severe disease can be provided supportive medical care.

For more information about mosquito safety, please visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s website at