The Washington Times-Herald

August 22, 2013

Cause for concern with West Nile outbreaks

By Lindsay Owens Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — An influx in mosquitoes has caused state and local health departments to caution residents about West Nile Virus.

As of last week, 102 positive pools of mosquitoes have been found around the state in 35 counties, including Daviess, Knox, Martin and Pike counties. Because of the increase in the number of West Nile positive pools of mosquitoes, the potential risk of human infection has increased. Local health officials said while the risk has increased, so far this year, the 27 percent of pests that tested positive for the virus, is still lower than the 60 plus percent that hit the state last year. State and local health departments are now focused on educating the public about West Nile and what can be done to prevent the spread of the virus.

"Positive pools of mosquitoes are not uncommon," said Environmental Health Specialist Geoff Stoner. "The state does random testing and they will ask us if there are areas within the county where an abundance of mosquitoes have been located and they will also also test areas where they have been able to collect a large amount of mosquitoes in the past."

The mosquitoes are typically collected with light traps that use fluorescent light along with a vacuum to suck down the summertime pests into a net or with traps that use stagnant water in conjuction with a vacuum that sucks the specimen upward. Dry ice is also sometimes used to drawn the mosquitoes to the trap.

"Mosquitoes like carbon dioxide. Since humans and animals emit carbon dioxide, the mosquitoes tend to like to flock around us," said Stoner.

Stoner said the state collects the disease carrying insects over night and the mosquitoes are then separated into groups and sent to the state lab where they are analyzed under a microscope. So far, over 133,000 mosquitoes have been tested in the state.

Indiana currently has only one confirmed case of West Nile Virus but often times the virus will not present any symptoms. More recognizable symptoms of the disease may include a high fever, headache, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, and confusion but these symptoms are often associated with other diseases, including Lyme Disease.

According to a release by the Indiana State Department of Health, less than one percent of those infected with West Nile have a more severe form of the illness that can cause swelling of the brain or the tissue surrounding the brain as well as the spinal cord.

Cases of West Nile in the past have been confirmed in people of all ages but more severe outbreaks are most common in people over the age of 50 or those individuals with a weakened immune system. Individuals presenting symptoms are treated with over-the-counter medication for pain and to reduce the swelling.

For more information on the West Nile Virus, visit www.in.gov./isdh or contact the local health department at 254-8674.

There are several ways to reduce the odds of coming in contact with mosquitoes that may carry the virus. The Indiana State Health Department recommends these preventative measures: - Avoid places where mosquitoes are biting - Apply insect repellent to clothes and exposed skin that contains DEET, picaradin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus - Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. - When possible, wear long sleeves and pants especially if you will be in a marshy or wooded area. Potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes can also be reduced by: - Discarding old tires, cans, ceramic pots and other containers that can hold water - Repair failed septic systems - Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left outdoors - Keep grass cut short and shrubs trimmed - Clean clogged gutters, especially if leaves plug up the drains - Frequently change the water in pet bowls - Flush ornamental fountains and birdbaths periodically - Aerate ornamental pools or stock with predatory fish Source: www.statehealth.IN.gov