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West Nile virus activity detected in Indiana. Here's how you can prepare

One of the easiest ways to help control the mosquito population is to limit areas of standing water where mosquitos breed.

INDIANAPOLIS — State health officials are urging Hoosiers to protect themselves from mosquito bites after the first West Nile virus (WNV) case has been detected this year.

While no human cases of WNV disease have been reported this year, a mosquito sample collected in Clinton County tested positive for the virus.

And on Thursday, June 29, the Marion County Public Health Department said the first mosquitoes of the season in Marion County tested positive for West Nile virus.

However, the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) expects WNV activity to continue across the state during mosquito season, which continues through the first hard freeze.

“With warm temperatures already here, people are spending more time outside. Taking a few precautions to avoid mosquito bites can help ensure Hoosiers enjoy outdoor activities safely,” said Lindsay Weaver, Indiana's State Health Commissioner.

One of the easiest ways to help control the mosquito population is to limit areas of standing water where mosquitos breed.

Unused tires, when left outside, can collect water and become an ideal place for mosquitoes to breed.

Matt Sinko, coordinator of Mosquito Control, is encouraging residents to take extra precaution.

“We encourage residents to take a few minutes each week to walk around their yard or property and look for areas of standing water,” Sinko said. “Dump water from containers of any size, and flush out bird baths frequently. Also, check for clogged gutters, small recreational pools and poorly operating septic systems.” 

Even a container as small as a bottle cap can become a mosquito breeding ground, so 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.
  • Each week, empty and scrub items that hold water, such as birdbaths, toys, pools and flowerpot saucers.
  • 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.
  • Aerate ornamental pools, or stock them with predatory fish. 

About 80% of people infected with WNV will not develop symptoms, while around 20% will develop an illness accompanied by fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash.  

People older than 60 years and those receiving immunosuppressive medications or treatments are at greatest risk of severe WNV disease.

State health officials recommend the following personal protective measures:

  • Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are active (especially during evening hours, from dusk to dawn, and in the 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 long sleeves and long pants in places where mosquitoes are especially active, such as wooded and shady areas.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of the home. 

People who think they may have WNV should contact their health care provider.

IDOH has developed a mosquito surveillance dashboard, which will allow Hoosiers to better understand their risk for mosquito-borne disease based on virus activity occurring throughout the state. 

To view the dashboard and learn more about mosquito-borne diseases, click here.

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