State health officials confirmed the first signs of West Nile virus activity in Indiana for 2014. Mosquitoes in Marshall and Pike counties have tested positive for West Nile virus. There have been no reported cases of West Nile virus in humans in the state this year.
West Nile virus has been found throughout the entire state in past years, and positive mosquitoes are expected to be found in many other Indiana counties as the summer progresses. It is impossible to predict the severity of this year’s West Nile virus season as future temperatures and rainfall determine the level of mosquito populations.
“It’s the time of year when we are at greater risk for West Nile virus infection,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “But there are many ways people can help protect themselves and their families. You can prevent West Nile virus infection by following some simple and effective steps to prevent mosquito bites.”
Dr. VanNess recommends people take the following protective steps:
• If possible, avoid being outdoors during prime mosquito biting times, especially late afternoon and dusk to dawn and early morning;
• Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 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.
Most people who are infected with West Nile virus will not develop any symptoms. Of those who become ill, most will develop a milder form of the illness, which can include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph glands or a rash. However, a small number of people can develop a more severe form of the disease with encephalitis or meningitis and other neurological syndromes, including flaccid muscle paralysis. Some people 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.
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. West Nile virus is not transmitted from person to person.
“Mosquitoes can spread several other diseases, including St. Louis Encephalitis and La Crosse Encephalitis,” said Dr. VanNess. “Usually, mosquito transmitted diseases occur during the summer months and don’t show signs of waning until the first hard frost of the season.”
Dr. VanNess is also asking Hoosiers to take 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.
To visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s website, go to www.StateHealth.in.gov. For important health and safety tips, follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isdh1