INDIANAPOLIS-State health officials are urging Hoosiers to take steps to protect themselves from the West Nile virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Last year, there were 24 human cases of West Nile virus in the state. The following counties in Indiana recently reported mosquito groups tested positive for West Nile virus: Adams, Clay, Delaware, Hamilton, Hancock, Henry, Madison, Marion, Porter, Rush, and Vigo.
"When we look at what has occurred in previous years, the recent increase in the number of mosquito groups testing positive for the virus suggests a greater risk of people getting infected with West Nile virus," said James Howell, DVM, state epidemiologist at the Indiana State Department of Health. "The best thing people can do to prevent getting infected is to take some simple steps to protect themselves from getting bitten by a mosquito."
Dr. Howell recommends, if possible, people avoid being outdoors during prime mosquito biting times, dusk to dawn. When outdoors, Hoosiers should:
- Apply insect repellent containing DEET, Picardin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to clothes and exposed skin; and
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
"August and September have been the months when most human West Nile cases occur," said Dr. Howell. "We will continue to see this until evenings are below 50 degrees, and we have a hard frost. There are many factors that can affect mosquito populations, including weather patterns. Unfortunately, these factors are impossible to predict ahead of time, so we must be prepared. "
Dr. Howell says throughout the summer people should:
- Dispose of old tires, tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots or other unused 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; and
- Aerate ornamental pools, or stock them with predatory fish.
Most people have very mild disease. Health officials report individuals age 50 and over are at greatest risk for serious illness and even death from West Nile virus. However, people of all ages can be and have been infected with the virus.
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