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Verbatim: Hot weather likely to increase West Nile risk

Statement issued Tuesday:

State health officials are urging Hoosiers to again take steps to protect themselves from mosquito borne diseases, including West Nile. The hot weather this summer has increased the risks of West Nile as evidenced by the rising rate of mosquito activity in the state.

July was the first signs of West Nile virus in the state as four counties had mosquitoes test positive for West Nile virus. In less than a month, the number of counties with mosquitoes that have tested positive for West Nile has more than tripled with 14 counties now confirmed.

“Based on past experience, the recent hot weather is a big factor for the increase in positive mosquitoes,” said Jennifer House, DVM, director, Zoonotic & Environmental Epidemiology at the Indiana State Department of Health. “Because of this, there is an increased risk for human cases.”

The following counties in Indiana recently reported mosquito groups that tested positive for West Nile virus: Adams, Allen, Clinton, Delaware, Grant, Hamilton, Hendricks, Howard, Kosciusko, Lake, Madison, Marion, Montgomery and Wabash. In 2009, West Nile virus was found in mosquitoes in 24 Indiana counties.

“West Nile virus is commonly found throughout the state each summer, so we expect to see an increase in activity in more counties as the season progresses,” said Dr. House. “The good news is there are simple, effective steps Hoosiers can take to protect themselves from being bitten by a mosquito.”

Dr. House recommends people take the following protective steps:

Avoid being outdoors during prime mosquito biting times, dusk to dawn, when possible;

  • Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, 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 when outside.
West Nile Virus usually causes a mild form of illness, which can include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph glands, or a rash. However, a small number of individuals can develop a more severe form of the disease with encephalitis or meningitis and other neurological syndromes, including flaccid muscle paralysis. Some individuals 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. Since 2002, when Indiana had its first human case of West Nile virus, more than 20 Hoosiers have died from the illness.

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.

“Besides West Nile, mosquitoes can spread several different disease causing viruses, including St. Louis Encephalitis, La Crosse Encephalitis and Eastern Equine Encephalitis,” said Dr. House. “Mosquito transmitted diseases commonly occur in August and September so Hoosiers should take the proper precautions to prevent being bitten.”

Dr. House is also asking Hoosiers to take steps to rid their properties of potential mosquito breeding grounds by:

  • 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.
For more information, visit the Indiana State Department of Health Web site at: www.statehealth.IN.gov.

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