This summer’s above average amount of rainfall has been ideal for mosquito breeding. According to state health officials, West Nile Virus has been confirmed in almost 10 Indiana counties. The virus has only been spotted in mosquito samples and no avian or human infections have been reported or confirmed thus far.
As of yesterday, the Indiana Department of Health disease map showed that mosquito samples testing positive for the West Nile Virus had been found in the northeastern counties of Elkhart, Allen, Wells and Wabash. The central Indiana counties reporting the presence of the virus are Hamilton and Shelby counties with one case each and Morgan county with three confirmed cases. The southern Indiana counties affected are the counties of Orange and Perry.
In recent years, changes have been made to the way sample sites that test positive for the West Nile Virus are treated. Before 2011, after a sample came back with a confirmed case of the virus, crews would go out immediately and do a spray to eliminate any mosquitoes that could potentially be carriers. Due to limited resources and tax caps crews can no longer go out and spray immediately. Now crews do a half-mile survey of the area to figure out where the bugs are breeding and then treat that specific spot.
Most individuals who are bitten by a mosquito with West Nile Virus only show mild symptoms or display no symptoms at all. Symptoms can arise anywhere from 3 to 15 days after being bitten and can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, muscle weakness or paralysis, and confusion. More severe symptoms can be encephalitis, inflammation of the brain or meningitis which is inflammation of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord. People at higher risk are the extremely young and elderly and those with compromised immune systems. If you fear you or a loved one has contracted the virus seek medical attention immediately.
State Entomologist Phil Marshall suggests the best way to reduce your chance of being bitten by any mosquitoes is to make it difficult for them to breed on your property, “They should be looking around for their items that are just sitting out and collecting water like the jars that they’ve left outside, the old tires around that will hold mosquitoes, things like that, make sure they’re empty. Don’t let them have standing water around where they can breed.”
Marshall also advises all individuals to avoid outdoor activities during prime mosquito times which would be around dusk and dawn. He proposes that all individuals wear long sleeves when possible and to use mosquito repellents containing DEET whenever spending an extended amount of time outside. Follow these tips to reduce the likelihood of becoming the first Hoosier with a confirmed case of the West Nile Virus this summer.