by Megan Trent
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (August 1, 2014) – Mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus are in Marion County, health officials revealed Friday.
According to the Marion County Public Health Department, no human cases have been reported so far. Officials say the virus is usually found in Marion County earlier in the month of July, but was likely delayed this year by recent cool weather.
Jim Erwin is a biologist with the Marion County Mosquito Control Department. He says below average temperatures are probably why area mosquitoes didn't test positive for West Nile until now, but he also points to heavy precipitation this summer. "This species of mosquito that transmits West Nile virus, we consider a container breeding mosquito. So, with all of the rains that we’ve had this summer, it kind of flushes those mosquitoes out – the larva that breed in the water.”
The positive test came from a mosquito trap in Washington Township. Traps throughout the county, 26 total, are monitoring the Indianapolis area. Erwin says to be cautious, because even though Washington Township is the only county to have a positive test so far, that doesn't mean mosquitoes carrying West Nile aren't in other townships across the area.
Most people who get West Nile don’t develop any symptoms. The elderly and those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk of experiencing symptoms like headache, body aches, joint pains or rash.
In rare cases, some patients develop a serious neurological illness such as encephalitis or meningitis. That affects less than one percent of the people infected by West Nile.
“It can be very debilitating," says Erwin. "It can cause death in human population. A couple of years ago, we did have two people die from West Nile virus.” However, Erwin says the most common symptoms are so mild that most people aren't even aware they've contracted the virus.
The health department urges residents to follow the “four Ds” of mosquito control:
- DUSK – Stay indoors from dusk until dawn
- DRESS – Wear long sleeves and long pants when outside during these times
- DEET – Use insect repellent containing DEET
- DRAINAGE – Remove all standing water outside the home
Residents should dump standing water and flush out bird baths weekly, because even a small amount of standing water can become a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes. Also, look for water in unused tires, clogged gutters, small pools and poorly operating septic systems.