06/24/13 State health officials have confirmed the first signs of the West Nile virus activity in Indiana. Mosquitoes in Adams County tested positive for West Nile virus last week. The detection of West Nile virus is earlier than normal for the state; which typically holds off until mid-summer. 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 every county except Crawford County. It is impossible to predict the severity of this year’s West Nile virus season as future temperatures and rainfall determine that.
“With this earlier than usual discovery of West Nile virus activity, Hoosiers are now at a greater risk of West Nile virus,” said Jennifer House, Director of Zoonotic and Environmental Epidemiology at the Indiana State Department of Health. “But there are many ways people can help protect themselves and their families. By following several simple, effective and important steps, they can help reduce not only mosquitoes, but mosquito bites.”
Dr. House recommends people take the following protective steps:
· If possible, avoid being outdoors during prime mosquito biting times from dusk to dawn;
· 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 while 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 30 Hoosiers have died from the illness, including eight in 2012, 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.
“Mosquitoes begin activity around the spring,” said Dr. House. “Besides West Nile virus, mosquitoes can spread several different diseases including St. Louis Encephalitis and La Crosse Encephalitis. Usually, mosquito transmitted diseases occur during the summer months and don’t show signs of waning until the first hard frost of the season.”
State health officials also recommend Hoosiers take the following steps to rid their properties of potential mosquito breeding grounds:
- 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.