06/08/12 State health officials have confirmed the first signs of the West Nile virus activity in Indiana. Mosquitoes in Orange County have tested positive for West Nile virus. This is considerably earlier than the first positive mosquitoes found in the state last year, in mid-July. It is impossible to predict the severity of this year’s West Nile virus season as the temperatures and rainfall from here onward will play a role in that. West Nile virus is commonly found throughout the state in the summer and there will likely be an increase in activity in additional counties as the season progresses. Last year, West Nile virus was found in mosquitoes in 34 Indiana counties.
“Once the West Nile virus is detected in mosquitoes, people are at greater risk for infection,” said Jennifer House, director of Zoonotic & Environmental Epidemiology at the Indiana State Department of Health. “It is important to follow several protective steps that are simple and effective and can protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites.”
Dr. House recommends people take the following protective steps:
- Avoid being outdoors during prime mosquito biting times from 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. More than 20 Hoosiers have died from the illness, including one in 2011, since Indiana had its first human case of West Nile virus in 2002.
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.
“This is the time of year that mosquitoes start getting active,” said Dr. House. “They can spread several different disease causing viruses, including West Nile, St. Louis Encephalitis, and La Crosse Encephalitis. Usually, mosquito transmitted diseases occur during the summer months and Hoosiers need to take the proper precautions to prevent bites.”
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: www.statehealth.IN.gov.