INDIANAPOLIS (Indiana Department of Health) - Due to the recent heavy rains and flooding, state health officials are warning Hoosiers to take caution and protect themselves from the West Nile virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. In 2007 there were 24 human cases of West Nile virus.
State health officials say in 2002 Indiana had similar wet weather conditions in the spring, including flooding in parts of the state, followed by a hot, dry summer. In that year, the state had the most human cases of West Nile virus to date; 293.
“Both nuisance-biting and disease-carrying mosquitoes have been active for several weeks, and fairly large populations have been noted,” said James Howell, DVM, state epidemiologist at the Indiana State Department of Health. “West Nile virus has been identified in mosquitoes in Marion County, and it is likely to be present in mosquitoes in many other areas.”
Culex mosquitoes are the main carriers of West Nile Virus. They only fly a half-mile at the most and breed in artificial containers such as tires, buckets, wading pools and clogged rain gutters. They will also take advantage of standing water left after flooding.
“Effective prevention of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases involves both reducing mosquito breeding sites and using personal protection, like applying insect repellent containing DEET, Picardin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to clothes and exposed skin,” said Dr. Howell.
Dr. Howell recommends homeowners:
- 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.
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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