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July 28, 2011

07/29/11 The first signs of the West Nile virus activity in Indiana have been reported said State health officials. Both Allen and Hamilton counties have now had mosquitoes test positive for West Nile virus. West Nile virus is commonly found throughout the state each summer and it is anticipated there will be an increase in activity in more counties as the season progresses. Last year, West Nile virus was found in mosquitoes in 54 Indiana counties.

 “Once we detect West Nile virus in mosquitoes, we know people are at greater risk for infection,” said Jennifer House, DVM, veterinary epidemiologist at the Indiana State Department of Health. “Fortunately, there are several simple, effective steps Hoosiers can take to protect themselves from mosquito bites.”

Dr. House recommends people take the following protective steps: • Avoid being outdoors during prime mosquito biting times, dusk to dawn, when possible; • Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to clothes and exposed skin; • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the home; and, • When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when outside.

West Nile Virus usually causes a mild form of the illness, which can include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph glands, or a rash. However, a small number of individuals can develop a more severe form of the disease with encephalitis or meningitis and other neurological syndromes, including flaccid muscle paralysis. Some individuals may die from the infection. Health officials say that although individuals over age 50 are at greatest risk for serious illness and even death from West Nile virus, people of all ages have been infected with the virus and have had severe disease. Since 2002, when Indiana had its first human case of West Nile virus, more than 20 Hoosiers have died from the illness, including one in 2010.

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes that have first bitten an infected bird. A person bitten by an infected mosquito may show symptoms three to 15 days after the bite.

“Mosquitoes are always active this time of year and can spread several different disease causing viruses, including West Nile, St. Louis Encephalitis, and La Crosse Encephalitis;” said Dr. House. “Mosquito transmitted diseases commonly occur in the last summer months of August and September, so during these months Hoosiers should really take the proper precautions to prevent being bitten.”

Dr. House is also asking Hoosiers to take steps to rid their properties of potential mosquito breeding grounds by: • Discard old tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or other containers that can hold water; • Repair failed septic systems; • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers left outdoors; • Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed; • Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains; • Frequently replace the water in pet bowls; • Flush ornamental fountains and birdbaths periodically; and, • Aerate ornamental pools, or stock them with predatory fish.

For more information, visit the Indiana State Department of Health website at: