Health officials confirm first signs of West Nile virus in state

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—The Indiana State Department of Health announced Friday the first signs of the West Nile virus have been confirmed in the state. 

Health officials said mosquitoes in Adams County tested positive for the virus last week. Similar to last year, officials said the detection of the virus is earlier than normal for the state. West Nile is commonly found throughout Indiana beginning in mid-summer.

Last year, the virus was found in mosquitoes in every county except Crawford County. Several cases of people contracting the virus were reported, some resulting in death. More than 30 Hoosiers have died from the illness, including eight in 2012, since Indiana had its first human case of West Nile virus in 2002.

Health officials said it is impossible to determine the severity of this year’s West Nile virus season, because it depends on future temperatures and rainfall.

Individuals over the age of 50 are at greatest risk for serious illness.  The virus typically causes fevers, headaches, body aches, swollen lymph glands or a rash.  However, some individuals can form a more severe form of the disease with encephalitis or meningitis and other neurological syndromes, including flaccid muscle paralysis. A person bitten by an infected mosquito could show symptoms three to 15 days after contact.

Because there is no vaccine for the virus, the best way to protect yourself is to use bug spray containing DEET. Those who spend time in wooded areas are not the only ones at risk for the mosquito-borne virus. Officials said a majority of people who became infected were working in the garden, mowing the lawn or just sitting outside on the porch.

The health department recommends taking the following steps to protect yourself from mosquitoes:

  • Avoid places where mosquitoes are biting
  • 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
  • When possible, wear pants and long sleeves, especially if walking in wooded or marshy areas.