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West Nile virus detected in Indiana




Indianapolis — State health officials are urging Hoosiers to take steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites after the West Nile virus is detected in Indiana for the first time this year.

So far in 2021, one mosquito sample collected in Vigo County has been tested positive for West Nile virus. No human cases of West Nile virus disease have been detected this year. However, the Indiana Department of Health expects more West Nile fever activity throughout the state as the mosquito season progresses.

Mosquitoes can carry a variety of diseases. In 2019 and 2020, Indiana experienced an outbreak of another mosquito-borne disease, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). These outbreaks resulted in two human cases in northern Indiana, one of which was fatal, resulting in 18 horse cases. No EEE virus activity has been detected in Indiana this year, but health officials want to continue to pay attention to Hoosiers.

State health authorities recommend the following precautions:

  • Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are active (especially late afternoon, dusk to dawn, early morning).
  • Apply EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, lemon eucalyptus oil or paramentandiol to clothing and exposed skin.
  • In areas where mosquitoes are particularly active, such as in wooded areas, wear hats, long sleeves, and long trousers to cover exposed skin.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the house.

About 80% of people infected with West Nile virus develop no symptoms at all, but about 20% develop illnesses with fever, headache, body pain, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash. Less than 1% of people infected with the West Nile virus develop serious illnesses that affect the nervous system. This may include inflammation of the brain and the membranes that line the brain and spinal cord. About one-tenth of severe cases are fatal. People over the age of 60 are at greatest risk of serious illness from the West Nile virus.

EEE viral disease is less common than West Nile viral disease, but usually causes more serious illness. As with West Nile fever, some people infected with EEE have no symptoms at all. Some people develop illnesses with fever, chills, joint pain or muscle aches. Some people recover from the disease without additional complications, but in others the disease can progress to severe illnesses that affect the nervous system. About one-third of cases of severe EEE viral disease are fatal. However, patients who have recovered from a severe illness often experience serious and permanent complications. People under the age of 15 and over the age of 50 are at greatest risk of severe EEE viral disease.

If you suspect you may be infected with West Nile or EEE virus, contact your healthcare provider.

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How to prevent mosquito breeding grounds

Residents should take the following steps to eliminate potential breeding grounds, as even a container as small as a bottle cap can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

  • Discard old tires, tin cans, ceramic pots, or other containers that can hold water.
  • Repair the defective septic tank.
  • Drill a hole in the bottom of the recycling container left outdoors.
  • Cut the grass short and cut the shrubs.
  • Clean the clogged roof gutters, especially if the leaves tend to block the drains.
  • Change the water in the pet bowl frequently.
  • Rinse the decorative fountains and bird baths regularly. And
  • Ventilate the ornamental pool or store predatory fish.




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