State health officials are urging Hoosiers to protect themselves from mosquito bites after the West Nile virus was detected in Indiana for the first time this year.
The Indiana Department of Health said so far in 2021, one mosquito sample collected in Vigo County tested positive for West Nile virus. No human cases have been detected, but officials expect to see more West Nile activity as the mosquito season progresses.
“Many of us are looking forward to summer activities that were postponed or canceled last year, but we don’t want anyone to get sick from mosquito bites,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said in a statement. “Hoosiers in all parts of the state should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites whenever they are outdoors.”
The health department said mosquitoes can transmit a variety of diseases. In 2019 and 2020, Indiana experienced outbreaks of another mosquito-borne disease, eastern equine encephalomyelitis.
State health officials recommend the following preventive measures:
- Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are active (especially late afternoon, dusk to dawn, and early morning);
- Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol to clothes and exposed skin;
- Cover exposed skin by wearing a hat, long sleeves, and long pants in places where mosquitoes are especially active, such as wooded areas;
- Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the home.
The health department said even a container as small as a bottle cap can become a mosquito breeding ground. Residents should take the following steps to eliminate potential breeding grounds:
- Discard old tires, tin cans, 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.
According to health officials, about 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus will not develop symptoms. About 20 percent will develop an illness accompanied by fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Fewer than 1 percent of people infected with West Nile virus will develop severe illness affecting the nervous system, with inflammation in the brain or the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. About one in 10 severe cases is fatal. People older than 60 years are at the highest risk.
Results of the state health department’s mosquito surveillance are available on its website.